©2012 Arthur Nishida
My favorite activity growing up was to play with my sister or friends in the creek and forest behind my house. I'd come home with a few chigger bites but lots of happy memories.
Unfortunately, many kids and others with respiratory issues cannot enjoy being outside much this summer because of health issues associated with poor air quality.
Last summer Dallas issued 32 ozone warnings and experienced 71 days over 100 degrees in the DFW metroplex.
If this summer is like the last several, excessive surface ozone will again impact us all, and especially our children.
Surface ozone vs. the ozone layer – what’s the difference?
It wasn't until recent years that I realized that ozone has different effects depending on its location. The following excerpt from Wikipedia explains:
Although the ozone found at the Earth's surface is the same chemical species as that found in the ozone layer, they have very different sources, atmospheric chemistry, and affect human health differently as well.
The ozone layer protects people from the sun's most damaging ultraviolet rays. Because the ozone layer is located high in the atmosphere, people are not directly exposed to it.
Ground-level ozone, however, is a health hazard because people breathe it. It is formed through a complex set of chemical reactions involving hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and sunlight on calm summer days, when the weather may also be warm and humid.
High levels of ground ozone affect the breathing process and aggravate asthma in chronic sufferers. The young, elderly, and those with lung diseases are especially susceptible.
Ozone is most likely to exceed safety limits from May through October when seasonal heat and sunlight are at their highest.
What does it mean to have an ozone warning?
According to Nicole Cooper, Environmental Coordinator for the City of Dallas, an ozone warning is issued if there is an accumulation of unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone that could cause respiratory issues.
The higher the number, the worse the air quality.
The alert system begins with level green and progresses through yellow, orange, red, and purple depending on the levels of ozone particles per billion particles of air (ppb) in a sample.
You can view a chart that explains those ratings HERE.
What about those with asthma?
Asthma is a serious respiratory condition that affects around 300 million people worldwide.
Nationwide, about 1 out of every 10 school-aged children has asthma. Here in the North Texas area, it is even higher – about one in five children suffers from asthma.
Children are especially impacted by pollution because their lungs are still developing, and they breathe more quickly.
Even on moderate ozone days, usually sensitive people should consider limiting prolonged outdoor activity.
That's not fun for asthmatic children wanting to go outside to play with their friends.
Even during the school year when ozone levels tend to be lower, some kids have to sit out during recess when the air quality is poor.
It's not just a problem for kids, either. My best friend has asthma, and she has to be especially careful in the summertime when she exercises outdoors.