Should Tulsans Be Concerned About The Ozone Level?

Friday, July 15th 2011, 5:54 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma – Tulsa's triple digit temperatures are affecting everything from plants to animals to air conditioners and cars.

They're also affecting the air we breathe. Friday was Tulsa's 9th ozone alert day this year.

The ozone is a measure of Tulsa's air quality. Over the long term, it's improving, but recently it's been worse and experts blame it on the weather.

Every time someone fills up and drives away, they contribute to Tulsa's ozone problem. It's pollution at ground level and while half of it comes from cars, it's the weather that makes it build up.

Nancy Graham coordinates the Ozone Alert Program to encourage people to do what they can to reduce ozone.

"We're in a weather pattern where we're likely to see more," she said.

"It's not just because of the weather, it's because we do what we do," Graham added. "And if we could do a little less on certain days, it's going to help."

On ozone alert days, people are supposed to avoid gassing up and avoid using gas powered lawn equipment.

"If I know it is an ozone day, I won't put gas in the car, and I won't mow the yard," Pamela Worth said.

"If I can postpone the gas fill up, I'll do that, to try and help out," said Wesley Bills.

Over ten years, the amount of ozone in Tulsa's air has dropped from a high of .094 parts per million to the current .073. That's just under the limit of what's now considered acceptable, averaged out over 3 years.

"Over a three year average, we've had two good years that are, right now, year one and two, so we have a little bit of a buffer, but we're approaching that level where we could be in violation," Graham said.

The biggest improvements in air quality, according to Graham, come from more efficient cars and industry putting out less pollution. But she says it's still important for people to help out.

"If we continue to have a lot of just barely over, we'll still do fine," she said. "If we start to have some that are way over, exceedances that are high, then we could find ourselves in the situation Oklahoma City is in."

Last week, Oklahoma City went over that threshold, meaning they could be facing new limits on industry and gasoline to cut their pollution. The biggest and quickest change is simple, but hard to get right now; what we need is cool, wet weather.

Learn more Ozone Alert tips