Not to be confused with the ozone layer, ground-level ozone is the result of emissions from industrial factories and facilities, exhaust fumes from fuel-powered vehicles and chemical solvents. These themselves do not cause ground-level ozone, but once they have been emitted into the air, a chemical reaction occurs once they are met with the radiation from the sun.
Ground-level ozone is not good news for the environment or the people that are exposed to it. It is an air pollutant that is generally the main ingredient you will find in smog and continued exposure to this can have a big impact on your health.
Sunny days, in particular, are known to increase ozone levels to extremely unhealthy levels but even colder days and months can still see higher levels reached. Furthermore, winds can carry bad ozone with it, so even those of you that live in more rural areas can still be exposed to this form of pollution.
How Does Ozone Pollution Affect the Environment?
The biggest damage that ground-level ozone can do, aside from having implications to our own health, is that of the damage that it can do to plants, wildlife and the ecosystems on the planet.
Among the detrimental effects that ozone pollution can cause are:
- Plants experiencing a reduction in photosynthesis, a process whereby sunlight is turned into the energy that allows them to grow and live.
- Plants, trees and vegetations also suffering from a slower growth rate.
- Furthermore, all plant life will have a reduced chance of fighting off disease, insects, other pollutants and harsh weather.
What Could This Mean for the Ecosystem?
Every plant is a part of the ecosystem and while those effects are what will happen to each individual plant, the wider impact could lead to far greater damage to the ecosystem as a whole:
- The diversity of species in the area could be reduced as animals, insects, plants and fish look for healthier habitats.
- Habitat quality is dramatically reduced for any species living as part of it.
- Water and nutrient cycles can also suffer drastic changes.
What are the Potential Effects of Ground-level Ozone on Our Health?
People who suffer from lung disease and the young and the old are those that will be the most susceptible when levels of ground-level ozone are high. Those who suffer from asthma could also see that condition irritated if exposed for too long. The main effects are:
- Ozone can cause big irritation to your respiratory system.
- It can cause painful coughing, chest pain and congestion.
- It can also reduce lung function, making it more difficult to breathe properly.
- Continued and repeated exposure could even damage the lungs permanently.
Measures You Can Take to Reduce Your Exposure to Ground-Level Ozone
If you find that you are often affected by ground-level ozone, you should consider taking measures to reduce your exposure as much as possible. Repeated exposure can only lead to more serious health problems down the line, so you should definitely look at ways to prevent this from happening.
- If you can, try to avoid going out on particularly hot days and if you have no choice, try to limit the amount of activity or exercise you are doing while outside.
- If exercise and activity is a big part of your daily routine, try to plan this for times of day when ozone levels are likely to be much lower.
- Always check to see what the current Air Quality Index is for your area before going out.
- Move to a cleaner area and if possible, look to move your career as far away from smoggy areas as you can.
Of course, while limiting your own exposure is important, we should all be thinking about the bigger picture and doing what we can to reduce smog and ground-level ozone levels.
- Instead of driving to work in your car which is just adding to the problem, take a bus, share a ride to cut down how much smog you yourself are creating or better yet, use a bicycle.
- Cut down on your own energy usage. Fossil-burning power plants are a big contributor to ozone, so by reducing the amount of energy you are using, you will be doing your bit to try and reduce the emissions hitting our air.
- Educate others to do the same and make a joint effort whether at your workplace or with your neighbours.
Ground-level ozone is a big problem in all major cities and while there is a greater awareness of the damage that we are doing to our planet, there is always so much more that could be done. We as the human race need to live a far greener lifestyle and until that happens, we will continue to damage both the planet and our own health.