Louisville air quality could trouble sensitive groups Friday

The view from the roof of the First Trust Centre | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Friday’s air quality alert will be the 10th of the summer as ozone falls into the unhealthy range for sensitive groups.

Blame it on the weather, according to the Air Pollution Control District, which says the number of alerts isn’t out of the ordinary.

“We’re not really seeing more this year than normal,” said Thomas Nord, a spokesman for the Louisville Metro agency.

“We’re looking at a very hot, cloudless day … and so that’s where you tend to get your greatest ozone production,” he said. “ … Those kind of days are going to be with us because it’s Kentuckiana.”

Basically, “dry, stagnant, non-moving air just sort of sits there and the sun does its job and we end up with higher ozone than we want.”

An air quality alert also has been issued for Saturday in Louisville and Southern Indiana.

The Air Pollution Control District issues alerts when the air pollution is expected to exceed a federal standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The EPA standard is you can’t go over 70 parts ozone per billion parts air,” Nord said. “That’s a very little amount.”

Friday, the Air Quality Index, which is color-coded, will be in the orange range, so it might not be the best day to go running in the heart of the afternoon if you have a lung condition or tend to have problems on air quality alert days.

“These (orange) alerts are specially aimed at people who have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), people who have emphysema, people who have asthma,” Nord said. Also, “we talk about the seniors, we talk about very young children.”

Ozone also can be a problem for outdoor workers and others who are active outside, people with certain genetic characteristics and individuals with reduced intake of certain nutrients, such as vitamins C & E, according to the EPA.

Breathing ozone, the main ingredient in smog, “can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and airway inflammation,” according to the EPA. “It also can reduce lung function and harm lung tissue.”

Also, “ozone can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma, leading to increased medical care,” the EPA notes.

Ground level ozone is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight, according to the EPA. Major sources of NOx and VOCs include emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors and chemical solvents.

To be helpful, people can take mass transit, avoid refueling their cars during the middle of the day and refrain from cutting the lawn with a gas mower, Nord said.

“We issue the alerts mostly to protect people who are vulnerable,” he said. “But we’re also trying to raise awareness that this is a community issue, that everybody needs to be mindful of it.”

Here are some tips from the EPA on how to cope:

•Reschedule activities to the morning or to another day.

•Move your activity inside where ozone levels are usually lower.

•Choose a less-strenuous activity.

•Take more breaks during outdoor activity.