The first ozone action day of the summer has been called for Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Thibodaux and Shreveport on Friday based on forecasts and weather information from the state Department of Environmental Quality.
The action day designation means computer models show a potential for ozone pollution levels to reach high enough level to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children or people with breathing problems.
Unlike other pollution, ozone isn’t released into the air. Instead, it’s a pollution formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from various sources, such as vehicles and industrial releases, combine in the air during hot and sunny days.
When there is little wind, like the forecast for Friday, ozone that is formed can accumulate and reach levels that cause health problems for sensitive groups.
Friday is the first ozone action day that has needed to be called for any of the four areas this year, and Thibodaux hasn’t had an action day called since 2010, said Jean Kelly, spokeswoman for DEQ.
“We’ve been doing very well this year,” agreed Vennetta Hayes, environmental chemical specialist staff at DEQ.
DEQ called 15 ozone action days last year, but only eight actually had ozone reach the action level.
The other seven days ended up with ozone levels below action level, meaning the levels of pollution didn’t get as high as anticipated, Kelly said.
The reasons for the few ozone action days called this year is likely a combination of reductions in facility emissions and the fact that this summer has brought cooler and wetter conditions, which can limit ozone accumulation, Kelly said.
An ozone action day helps warn sensitive groups such as the elderly, people with lung conditions or active children and adults that they should limit long-term outdoor activities in the afternoon, when ozone normally forms.
In addition, industrial facilities will be alerted to postpone any activity they can that might release the components of ozone pollution to the air.
The public is also asked to take actions to help reduce the potential for ozone formation, Kelly said, such as driving less, refueling cars or mowing the lawn after 6 p.m. and taking a lunch to work to avoid running a car during a hot part of the day.
More information about ozone and action days is available at www.deq.louisiana.gov.