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Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Metro Detroit air quality poor for sensitive groups: what does it mean

By meerna Jun18,2024
Metro Detroit air quality poor for sensitive groups: what does it mean

DETROIT – Air quality in Metro Detroit was predicted to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups” on Monday.

Pollutants combined with high temperatures were expected to create “bad” ozone in Metro Detroit by the afternoon. High temperatures were forecast to reach the mid-90s on Monday, June 17, with even warmer temperatures due to humidity.

On Monday in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. An air quality alert, also known as an “ozone action day,” was issued for Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne. The air quality index, known as AQI, was expected to be in the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” range, which is between 101 and 150 AQI. An AQI above 300 is considered dangerous.

A close-up of the air quality forecast for metro Detroit that is “unhealthy for sensitive groups” as of June 17, 2024. (AirNow.gov)

Within this range, poorer air quality will not affect most people.

However, for people in “vulnerable groups” – such as young children, the elderly, people with asthma or other breathing problems – inhaling the air may have an effect, especially over long periods of time. They are encouraged to reduce their exposure to ozone by “choosing less strenuous activities” or spending less time outdoors.

The title “Ozone Action Day” is also intended to encourage people to avoid activities that may create ozone, including fueling vehicles, using gas-powered lawn equipment and using charcoal lighter fluid.

“On the earth’s surface, ozone comes into direct contact with life forms and reveals its destructive side (hence it is often called “bad ozone”),” says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Because ozone reacts strongly with other molecules, high concentrations are toxic to living organisms.”

Officials say bad ozone could continue to impact southeast Michigan for at least the next few days.

“With winds blowing from the hot southwest at all levels of the atmosphere, air quality is sure to be an issue this week,” says AirNow.gov, a federal platform created in partnership with the EPA, CDC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others.

—> Heatwave hits Metro Detroit this week: What to know

What causes “bad” ozone?

“Bad” ozone occurs at ground level. In cities, it is created when emissions from vehicles, power plants, chemical plants and other sources react with heat and sunlight. The warmer the day and the stronger the sun, the more ozone is created. Therefore, ozone is usually at its worst on windless, hot summer afternoons. High ozone levels mainly affect people in the period from April 1 to September 30.

You are most likely to find high levels of “bad” ozone in urban areas. You may hear it called “smog.” However, other areas can also experience high ozone levels when winds blow pollutants hundreds of miles away from their original sources.

How does “bad” ozone affect people?

Even at low concentrations, inhaling ozone can cause chest pain, coughing and throat irritation. It can also exacerbate lung diseases such as emphysema, bronchitis and asthma. The more ozone pollution a person inhales, the more permanent damage it can do to their lungs.

Because it usually forms in hot weather, anyone who spends time outdoors in the summer can become ill – children, the elderly, people who work outdoors, and people who exercise may be particularly susceptible. The higher the ozone level, the more people will have health symptoms. Millions of Americans live in areas where ozone levels are higher than national health standards, so they should pay attention to ozone levels when the weather is hot and sunny.

Stay safe with the air quality warning

Follow these simple tips to stay safe in the event of an air quality warning:

  • If possible, stay home, especially if you have breathing or other health problems, are an elderly person, or are a child.

  • If you must go out, try to limit your time away from home to strictly essential activities.

  • Minimize the use of items that increase pollution, such as cars, lawn mowers and other vehicles.

  • Do not burn debris or other items during an air quality alert.

  • Take the bus, drive, work remotely, bike or walk. You will reduce traffic and air pollution, and save money.

  • If you plan to grill, use an electric starter or a charcoal fireplace instead of lighter fluid. Liquid vapors contribute to the formation of ozone.

  • Avoid drive-thru drives or other situations where the vehicle is idled for extended periods of time. You’ll save money on gas and reduce pollution.

Who is most at risk?

Several groups of people are particularly sensitive to ozone, especially when they spend time outdoors. This is because ozone levels are higher outside and physical activity causes you to breathe faster and deeper, drawing more ozone into your body.

  • People suffering from lung diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema may be particularly sensitive to ozone. They will generally experience more severe health effects at lower levels. Ozone can exacerbate their diseases, leading to more frequent use of medications, visits to doctors and emergency rooms, and hospitalizations.

  • Children, including teenagers, are at greater risk of ozone exposure because they often play outdoors on warmer days when ozone concentrations are higher, are more likely to have asthma (which may be exacerbated by ozone exposure), and their the lungs are still developing.

  • Older people may be at greater risk of ozone exposure, possibly because they are more likely to have pre-existing lung disease.

  • Active people of all ages who exercise or work intensively outdoors are at increased risk.

  • Some healthy people are more sensitive to ozone. They may experience health effects at lower ozone concentrations than the average person, even though they do not have any of the risk factors listed above. Increased sensitivity may have a genetic basis.

Overall, as ground-level ozone concentrations increase, more people begin to experience more serious health effects. When concentrations are very high, everyone should be concerned about exposure to ozone.

What are the health effects?

Ozone affects the lungs and respiratory system in many ways. So maybe:

  • Irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing, sore throat, respiratory irritation, chest tightness, or chest pain on deep breathing.

  • Reduce lung function, making it difficult to breathe as deeply and vigorously as usual, especially during exercise. Breathing may start to become uncomfortable and you may notice that your breaths are faster and shallower than usual.

The risk of exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone is greatest during the warmer months. Children who often play outdoors on warmer days are at greater risk.

  • It inflames and damages the cells lining the lungs. Within a few days, the damaged cells are replaced with new ones and the old ones are sloughed off – just like skin peeling after a sunburn. Research suggests that if this type of inflammation continues, lung tissue may become permanently scarred and lung function may be permanently reduced.

  • Make your lungs more susceptible to infections. Ozone weakens the lungs’ defense mechanisms by damaging cells that remove particles and bacteria from the respiratory tract and reducing the number and effectiveness of white blood cells in the lungs.

  • Asthma exacerbation. When ozone levels are unhealthy, more people with asthma develop symptoms that require medical attention or medication. Ozone makes people more sensitive to allergens – the most common cause of asthma attacks. Additionally, asthmatics may be more affected by reduced lung function and airway inflammation. People with asthma should ask their doctor for an asthma action plan and follow it carefully when ozone levels are unhealthy.

  • They exacerbate other chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and bronchitis. As ground-level ozone concentrations increase, more people with lung diseases visit doctors or emergency rooms and are admitted to hospital.

  • Cause permanent lung damage. Repeated, short-term ozone damage to the developing lungs of children can lead to decreased lung function in adulthood. In adults, exposure to ozone may accelerate the natural decline in lung function that occurs with age.

Sources: AQI, NWS, EPA, SEMCOG.

Copyright 2024 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit – All rights reserved.

By meerna

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