As this summer heats up, the air around us is becoming unhealthy. You and your family should be aware and should take steps to protect yourselves and those around you.
I’m referring to the ozone, and the dangerous levels of air pollutants around us that are affecting it and us. Perhaps you’ve seen the warnings for parts of Oklahoma’s most populous regions.
Ground-level ozone is caused when the sun reacts with pollutants on Earth from cars and from certain industrial plants and processes to form ozone. During the summertime, with its abundance of sunshine, it is particularly dangerous around urban areas such as Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The Environmental Protection Agency warns that although higher levels of ozone in the stratosphere above us protect from harmful ultraviolet radiation, lower-level ozone can be dangerous.
Ozone is formed by volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and nitrogen oxides, or NOx, combining with intense sunlight. These sources can occur from everyday sources like cars and other gasoline-powered vehicles, such as boats and lawn equipment.
The Central Oklahoma Association of Governments, or ACOG, has warned us several times lately that this danger is greatest for infants, children and people with asthma and other respiratory and pulmonary problems. This list also includes people over the age of 65 – a great number of our loved ones and neighbors. In addition, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary issues, bronchitis, diabetes, emphysema and cardiovascular disease are also susceptible. In fact, all people in affected areas are advised to be on the lookout for health effects related to ozone pollutants when a warning or watch is issued.
The ACOG goes on to explain that affected areas are encouraged to adopt changes to our normal routines, such as the following:
- Carpool (visit GetAroundOK.com to find a match).
- Ride a bike (join a downtown bike sharing program).
- Ride the bus.
- Gas up your vehicle in the evening when the temperature is cooler.
- Avoid lawn mowing or use an electric lawn mower.
- Drive the speed limit on highways.
And as hard as that last idea sounds, at least you now have a great excuse to put off mowing in this heat. So please be aware, please take precautions and please take steps to help thy neighbor avoid this danger all summer long.
Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.