Air quality is extremely important to our health and overall well being. Although it’s something we all tend to take for granted, the air quality around us plays a very important role in our lives. We’ve all heard people talking about the ozone and the ozone layer and how harmful it can be to the air quality around us. Ozone is a colorless gas that’s everywhere in the air we breathe. Depending on where you’re at when it appears will determine if it’s good or bad ozone. It occurs in the stratosphere, the upper atmosphere of the Earth and protects the Earth form sun’s ultraviolet rays.
When the ozone is at ground level, it is considered an air pollutant and can be very harmful to our health. Ground level ozone affects our air quality when the oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds react to sunlight. This ozone comes from vehicles like trucks, cars, buses, etc., lawn and garden equipment, construction equipment, large factories and industries, paints and cleaners.
Air quality is tested and determine by the air quality index, which a standardized indicator of what the quality of the air is in one specific location. It measures the ozone at ground level as well as amount of particles in the air, which may include nitrogen dioxide or sulfur dioxide. The pollen count, which will also affect the air quality, is not listed in the air quality index. Certain times of the day will affect the ozone, which, in turn, affects our air quality. In urban environments, the ozone is likely to reach an unhealthy level on a hot sunny day because of the urban smog.
Rural areas can also be affected by unhealthy ozone layers because it can travel a long ways via the wind. There are some sites that give air quality reports on a daily basis so the public knows how polluted or clean the air may be that day. This is specifically important for those that may have allergies and need to know the outdoor air quality conditions before planning outdoor activities.
The ozone can cause health problems by making it harder to breathe, causing pain when breathing as well as shortness of breathing, damaging the lung lining, increases or causes coughing and aggravates lung diseases. Although the ozone affects all us, some people are more susceptible to problems caused from poor air quality due to the ozone. These may include individuals with lung disease like emphysema, asthma or bronchitis as well as elderly. Even healthy people may occasionally be affected by the harmful effects of the ozone.