Say the word “ozone” and most people immediately think of the good kind of ozone, which occurs in the stratosphere and protects us from the sun’s harmful UV radiation. But a bad form of ozone also exists in Maricopa County, of which far fewer residents are aware.
Ground-level ozone forms when emissions from vehicles, gasoline and diesel equipment, industrial and chemical processes and other everyday activities react to sunlight. Naturally, ozone pollution is more prevalent during the spring and summer months because these emissions — volatile organic compounds (VOCs, solvents and fuels) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) — react more readily from sunlight and in higher temperatures.
Ground–level ozone can worsen bronchitis, emphysema and asthma and reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation and congestion. Residual effects from ground-level ozone are even more harmful to those with compromised lung functionality, the elderly and children.