Ozone is a toxic gas which is formed by a reaction between air pollutants and sunlight. While the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere protects you from the sun’s most damaging rays, ozone near the ground is a health hazard. Ground-level ozone affects the respiratory system and can be especially harmful to the very young, the very old, and people with chronic lung disease. Although we have some control over pollutants, we have no control over the heat and sunlight that turn pollutants into ozone. Ozone is most likely to exceed safety limits from April through October (ozone season), when seasonal heat and sunlight are highest. In metropolitan areas, consumers are responsible for a significant percentage of the air pollutants that lead to smog. These pollutants come from our cars, lawn mowers, boats and the oil-based paints and cleaning products we use at home.
Near the ground, Ozone is formed in a three-step process.
- Gasoline, paints and solvents evaporate, releasing reactive organic compounds.
- Gas powered equipment and factories burn fossil fuels, releasing nitrogen oxide gases and reactive organic compounds.
- Heat and sunlight trigger a chemical reaction between these emissions, transforming them into ozone.