According to Washoe County Health District officials, ozone concentrations in the air reached unhealthful levels for sensitive groups for several hours late Saturday and Sunday afternoons. High levels of ozone can recur throughout the summer.
Ground-level ozone forms when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) mix in the air then react chemically in the presence of sunlight. And, ozone can affect people’s health in many ways.
“Ozone can irritate the respiratory system. It can inflame the lining of the lungs and reduce lung function,” Dr. Joseph Iser, the district health officer, said in a press release. “Ozone can aggravate asthma and chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and bronchitis.”
Ozone levels vary during the day. They are highest during late afternoon and typically decrease at sunset.
Motor vehicles are the largest source of ozone precursors in the Truckee Meadows. Other sources include gasoline dispensing, solvents and fuel combustion sources. People can reduce the potential for ozone creation and can help to reduce potential health impacts when high ozone concentrations occur.
“Limiting motor vehicle trips and vehicle fueling during the daylight hours are important actions that the citizens of Washoe County can take to reduce the potential for ozone formation,” said Kevin Dick, Air Quality Management Division director district. “Reducing the use of gasoline-powered lawn equipment, solvents and charcoal lighter fluid on days in which the Air Quality Index for Ozone reaches the upper moderate range, or higher, are other important actions we all can take to preserve the air quality of the Truckee Meadows.”
It is important to stay informed of the Air Quality Index (AQI), which is reported by local TV stations and newspapers and is available by calling the air quality hotline at 785-4110. AQI can become unhealthy for sensitive groups — active children and adults who are exerting themselves outdoors, and people with lung disease, such as asthma — or for the general population. When this occurs, people, especially children, should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion.