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Ozone Alert Days: How to Stay Healthy and How to Help

06/01/2016

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In the heat of summer, the Oklahoma wind seems to disappear when you need it the most. If it seems like the summer can get too muggy to breathe, for some people, that’s reality. Every summer, certain weather conditions combined with man-made smog can be a cause for concern among Oklahomans with lung conditions. State and local agencies keep an eye on dangerous conditions and issue warnings for the most dangerous days. But even if you don’t have a lung condition, understanding Ozone Alert Days and Air Quality Warnings is important. Here’s what you need to know about air quality this summer.

Q: What causes an Ozone Alert Day or Air Quality Warning?

A: The main culprit is ozone, which is a key ingredient in smog. Ozone is a naturally occurring gas that is colorless and odorless. It’s not safe for people at high levels -- about 0.070 parts per million. Environmental and manmade factors can affect the amount of ozone in the air, including sunlight, pollution levels, warm weather and a lack of wind. Wildfires can also put particles in the air.

Q: Who is affected by high levels of ozone?

A: Ozone affects everyone differently. Healthy adults may experience tightness in the chest or burning in the nose and throat. It’s also dangerous for children, seniors or anyone who has to spend a long time outside.

Q: What should people with health issues do on Ozone Alert Days?

A: High ozone levels can be harmful to anyone with lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Consider staying inside because ozone usually dissipates indoors. If you have to go outside, limit your physical activity as much as possible.

Q: What can we all do to help?

A: We can all take small steps to help reduce ozone and help those with heart and lung conditions. Here’s what you can do on an Ozone Alert Day.

  • Drive less by combining trips or carpooling.
  • Use public transportation if available.
  • Put gas in your car in the morning or evening.
  • Don’t mow with gas-powered mowers.
  • Don’t burn outdoors.

Q: How often are ozone alerts issued?

A: The number of ozone alerts issued each year varies. However, persistent weather can mean a string of Ozone Alert Days.

Q: How do you know if air conditions are dangerous?

A: The National Weather Service issues air quality alerts for counties throughout the state. Also, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the Ozone Alert! Program and the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments partner to declare Ozone Alert Days. Ozone alerts are issued for the three biggest metro areas in the state: Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Lawton. All four websites have up-to-date information, but here are additional ways to stay in the loop:

  • Sign up for email notifications about air quality advisories statewide from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.
  • For the Tulsa area, sign up for email notifications about Ozone Alert Days from the Ozone Alert! Program. You can also subscribe to text alerts by texting “ozone” to 41411.
  • For the Oklahoma City area, sign up for email notifications about Ozone Alert Days from the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. You can also subscribe to text alerts by texting “ozonealert” to 22828.

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