Ozone Alert! Program 101
What is the Ozone Alert! Program?
The award-wining Ozone Alert! Program brings citizens, business, industry and government in the Tulsa Metropolitan area together to voluntarily reduce ozone-forming emissions on days vulnerable to high ozone levels. The first of its kind, our Ozone Alert! Program has been widely replicated throughout other areas. Cities such as Dallas/Ft. Worth, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and many others, large and small, have adopted the voluntary Ozone Alert! concept. And it works!
What causes Ozone Pollution?
Ground level or "bad" ozone is not emitted directly into the air but is formed by gases called nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs and NOx mainly come from vehicles and lawn equipment that use gasoline or diesel, some factories, industrial sources, solvents and nature. On hot days, VOCs and NOx "bake" together in the sun and can form high ozone concentrations in the air we breathe. In a nutshell, man-made pollution on hot wind-less summer days 'cook' to form ozone.
What is an Ozone Alert! Day?
An Ozone Alert! Day is a day forecasted to have higher than healthy levels of ozone. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, working with the National Weather Forecast, predicts days when atmospheric conditions may cause unhealthy levels of ozone in Tulsa. This advance prediction and the notification system allow the public and business community to take voluntary measures to reduce ozone formation, keeping the air as clean as possible.
Is Ozone a health problem?
It depends on where it is. At ground level, indeed it is. Excess ozone is a human health threat, causing lung problems and eye irritation. Everybody is vulnerable to ozone's effects, but children, the elderly, people with respiratory conditions, and those who work, exercise, or play strenuously outdoors are particularly at risk. In the stratosphere, however, the ozone layer acts as a shield, protecting us from harmful ultraviolet rays. The Ozone Alert! program addresses the importance of preventing the formation of ground-level ozone and protecting public health. One way to think of ozone is that is is "Good Up High but Bad Nearby". Breathing in ozone may lead to shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing and coughing and can trigger even asthma attacks.
Is this the same Ozone layer that we talk about around the earth?
Ozone is three molecules of Oxygen. So in a sense, O3 is O3 no matter where it is. But Ozone is supposed to be in the upper stmosphere around the earth. It is not supposed to be at the ground level - and it's especially not supposed to be breathed in. One way to think of it is "Good Up High but Bad Nearby". Ozone in the upper atmosphere is a beneficial and protective layer around the earth, but at ground-level it is harmful air pollution that threatens our health, quality of life, and the Tulsa area's economic prosperity. Ground-level ozone is created when sunlight reacts with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOX). Reducing these emissions is necessary to reduce ground-level ozone formation.
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