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Ozone and How it Can Affect Your Health

  • Synopsis: Published: 2013-06-07 - Ozone irritates the respiratory system and can cause health issues by damaging lung tissue and making the lungs more sensitive to other types of irritants - Disabled World.

Main Document

Quote: "Ozone levels are often times higher in the afternoon and early in the evening after industry and traffic have released large amounts of ozone-forming materials into the air."

Ozone is a type of gas that is colorless, reactive, and has a strong scent. If you inhale it it might cause damage to your lungs. Ozone is formed through chemical reactions of oxygen in the air with other types of chemicals. Ozone is usually created in the upper atmosphere by electrical charges on oxygen, such as lightening or sunlight It may also form in the lower atmosphere when hydrocarbons such as paint, evaporating fuel, or dry cleaning fluids, and nitrogen compounds mix with electrical charges or sunlight.

Ozone might be generated indoors by laser printers, ion-generating air cleaners, photocopiers, and brush-type electrical motors such as sewing machines. Indoor ozone; however, turns back into oxygen on contact with indoor surfaces such as furniture or the walls of a home or other building.

In the upper atmosphere, ozone has a helpful effect by absorbing harmful ultraviolet rays of sunlight. At the surface of the earth, it is harmful to forests, crops, human and animal health, as well as building materials. Warm and sunny days when there is little wind and no rain help to form ozone. When these conditions occur, unhealthy levels of ozone can arise - particularly in cities.

Ozone can be blown for long distances from areas that are highly-populated. Ozone levels are often times higher in the afternoon and early in the evening after industry and traffic have released large amounts of ozone-forming materials into the air.

Ozone and Your Health

Ozone irritates the respiratory system and might cause health issues by damaging lung tissue, reducing lung function, and making a person's lungs more sensitive to other types of irritants. Healthy issues related to ozone may happen at levels found in a number of cities during the summer months. It not only affects people who experience breathing issues, it may also affect children and adults. People who are particularly sensitive to ozone exposure include:

  • Infants
  • Seniors
  • Children
  • Smokers
  • People with lung cancer
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Chronic respiratory patients
  • People with cardiovascular disease
  • People with immune system deficiency
  • People with respiratory issues such as asthma or allergies

The symptoms people may experience include irritation of the sinuses, nose, and eyes. People may also experience chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. Additional symptoms include headache, blurred vision, nausea, fatigue, and vomiting.

The smell of ozone is noticeable even at low levels. As the level of ozone increases, the ability to smell it might actually decrease, especially when people are exposed to it on a frequent basis. No smell and fewer symptoms might give people the false impression of experiencing a reduced amount of exposure to ozone, despite the fact that further damage to their health may be occurring. Children might experience lung irritation yet not notice or complain about other symptoms. Even people who are healthy but exercise when ozone levels are increased may experience a reduction in their lung function, leading to coughing, wheezing, chest pain, and congestion.

Reducing Your Exposure to Ozone

The health effects of ozone are the same despite whether a person is exposed to it indoors or outdoors. Ozone is always present at very low levels, yet you can do some things to reduce ozone sources indoors and limit your exposure to it outside. If you suspect you are experiencing respiratory issues related to ozone, you should contact your doctor. Things you can do to reduce your expose to ozone include:

  • Maintain electrostatic air filters on a regular basis.
  • Make sure rooms with photocopiers are properly ventilated.
  • Avoid exercising outside on days when there are high ozone levels.
  • Remain inside as much as possible on days when there are ozone alerts.
  • Keep your car or other vehicle properly tuned and do not drive any more than you have to on hot days.
  • Avoid air cleaners that generate ozone - they may be effective at reducing odors, smoke, and additional air contaminants, but they can also cause unwanted health effects by producing ozone.

In America the government monitors the outdoor air for ozone. If the ozone levels exceed government standards, health statements are issued for the areas affected. If similar conditions are expected for the following day - an ozone advisory is issued. Some government agencies have set limits on ozone levels that may be emitted by electronic devices, motor vehicle emissions, and indoor air ozone levels the public might be exposed to.

Ozone Safety Levels

The national ambient air quality standard for ozone is 0.08 parts per million (ppm). The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard is 0.1 ppm of ozone in the workplace, a level that is also suggested to not be exceeded in a person's home. A number of companies make electronic instruments that measure ozone in the air.

Results from an NIEHS study revealed that children who played three or more outdoor sports in areas with high ozone were more than three times as likely to develop asthma as children who did not. During ozone alerts it is important to cut back on or even reschedule strenuous outside activities and stay inside in an air-conditioned or well-ventilated building. Drive less and combine errands, putting off less-necessary trips for days that are cooler. Use public transportation, or carpool.

Take a leisurely walk in the early morning or in the evening, or a bike ride. Avoid fueling your vehicle or other equipment. Just filling your vehicle with gasoline may lead to pollution because fumes escape and tiny drips and spills happen - gas vapors react with sunlight and heat to form ozone. If you have to fill your gas tank, do it after dusk and avoid topping off your tank. Postpone mowing your lawn; garden and lawn equipment is responsible for a significant portion of ozone-forming emissions. Put off yard work that involves power equipment until after an ozone alert is over.


Summer is ozone pollution season. An alert indicates the potential for elevated 8-hour ozone levels.

What is Ozone

Ozone pollution is more than a dirty-looking cloud on the horizon. It forms when emissions from vehicles, lawn mowers, power plants and industry react with heat and sunlight.

Air Quality Guide for Ozone

This guide will help you determine ways to protect your family's health when ozone levels reach the unhealthy range, and ways you can help reduce ozone air pollution.

Related Information:

  1. Is Your House Making You Sick - Allergy tips to help reduce indoor pollution and create a healthier cleaner home - (Published 2010-05-19).
  2. Air Pollutants Affect the Respiratory and Cardiovascular System - Air pollution greatly effects human health with mainly the respiratory and cardiovascular system suffering - (Published 2009-01-06).
  3. Early Pregnancy Complications Linked to Exposure to Smog - Pregnant females exposed to elevated levels of ozone air pollution in the first three months of pregnancy may be at increased risk for complications such as preeclampsia and premature birth - (Published 2013-02-09).

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