After twenty years on the EPA's nonattainment or "Dirty Air List", the Tulsa Metropolitan Area was redesignated as an ozone attainment area in 1990. Just one year later however, the area began to exceed the allowable ozone standard (0.120 parts per million (ppm) 1-hr standard). In an astounding 2-week time frame in the summer of 1991, INCOG developed a regional Air Quality Committee which conceived of, developed and implemented the very first Ozone Alert! Program in the nation. The program's purpose was to improve air quality and to ensure ongoing economic prosperity by remaining in compliance with the ozone standard. Twenty-nine years later, the Tulsa Area is still in attainment of the ozone standard and all the national air quality standards.
The Ozone Alert! Program takes a voluntary, eposodic approach to reducing ground-level ozone. Recognizing high-ozone days typically occur May through September, on days with high temperatures, minimal cloud cover and light winds, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in collaboration with the National Weather Service and INCOG, forecast potentially high ozone days. When Ozone Alert! Days are forecast, INCOG and the entire Tulsa region kicks into action to voluntarily help reduce emissions that form ground-level ozone. No later than 4pm the day before the actual Alert! Day, notice is spread though texts, email, widgets, highway message boards and many other venues.
The ozone standard provides increased protection to the public, especially children and other at-risk populations, against a wide range of ozone induced health effects.
The national ozone standard is an 8-hr averaged standard and is calculated by averaging ozone monitor data over a 3-year time period. This average is taken from the 4th highest (8-hour average) at each monitoring station. The OzoneAlert.com homepage shows the location of the five monitoring stations in the Tulsa area. A violation occurs when the 3-year average of the 4th highest value is greater than .070 parts per million (ppm).
Areas not meeting the standard are not automatically designated non-attainment. Rather, an official course of action must occur which includes the development of specific plans on how the area will regain compliance with the standard. All Oklahoma counties are currently in attainment.
Local, national and even international TV meteorologists report an Air Quality Index. This index provides an easy-to-understand way to explain the quality of the air. Anything below a 100 Air Quality Index (AQI) is considered 'healthy' and an AQI is above 100 is an indication of an exceedance of the air quality standards.
Tulsa's Ozone Alert! Program is about ozone at ground-level - unhealthy to breathe, outdoor air pollution. In the upper atmosphere, ozone is a protective layer around the earth; But importantly, the two types of ozone aren't connected. Ground-level ozone forms when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) react in sunlight and heat. A summertime chemical reaction, VOCs and NOx emissions come from sources like gasoline-powered engines, industry and household paints and solvents. The key to reducing ozone is to reduce the emissions that create it.
Ozone exposure may lead to
Long-term, repeated exposure to high levels of ozone may lead to large reductions in lung function, inflammation of the lung lining, and increased respiratory discomfort. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 5 to 20 percent of the total U.S. population has a susceptibility to the harmful effects of ozone air pollution.
Click here to view a glossary of ozone and pollution-related terms.