Early Ozone Alerts A Bad Sign For Health Conditions

Tuesday, June 30th 2009, 12:29 pm
By: News On 6


OKLAHOMA CITY -- Fresh air may do more harm than good during an Ozone Alert Day, according to an Oklahoma scientist. This is especially important this year when Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality representatives are expecting an increased number of Ozone Alerts.

"Usually we start seeing them in mid-August," said Curt Goeller, program specialist with the DEQ. "When we started having them in June, I knew we are in for a bad summer."

Air pollution may trigger some medical conditions in people that have a genetic predisposition to those illnesses. It can also worsen existing diseases.  

"When ozone and other air pollutants enter the lungs, they cause inflammation," said Dario Ramirez, Ph.D. scientist with Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.  

"That kind of activity can make already existing conditions - like obesity, diabetes or asthma - even worse. It can also precipitate diseases to which people are genetically predisposed. 

"Once we understand how those inflammatory events happen and how they trigger systemic diseases, we can develop therapies to protect the most susceptible populations, including the very young and the elderly," he said.

"On ozone alert days, the environmental triggers are much worse."

The state issues ozone alerts on days when predicted numbers of ozone are above .075 parts per million.

"That might not sound like much, especially compared to Dallas and Los Angeles, but it's more than we like to see," said Goeller.

Background levels of ozone are at .05 on a clear day, he said.

Tips for avoiding pollution

  • Avoid exposure to the pollution by staying indoors as much as possible during alerts.
  • Air-conditioning and a clean home with as little dust as possible is the safest environment.

The number of Oklahoma's ozone alert days varies year-to-year based on weather patterns. The state only had about four last year, said Goeller, but this year is shaping up to be worse.