Community response urged
State and local officials are urging citizens to respond to an Air Quality Health Advisory (AQHA) issued for the major metropolitan areas of the state.
Ozone concentrations on Monday and Tuesday in Wichita, Kansas City and Topeka exceeded allowable levels, raising concerns about health consequences and possible federal sanctions.
Continued violations of the ozone standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Wichita area could result in the imposition of federal regulations that would be costly to the local economy.
The AQHA was issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) because of the 100-degree temperatures, light to moderate winds and clear skies expected over the next several days.
Although the extreme heat and agricultural burning have contributed to the ozone levels, actions by local citizens can help moderate the increases, according to state and local officials.
Residents and employers are asked to use these tips to help make the air healthier to breathe:
- Drive as little as possible. Car pool, use public transit or telecommute.
- Reduce idling; avoid congested traffic areas if possible.
- Refuel your vehicle in the evenings and do not top off the tank.
- Avoid using gasoline powered trimmers and leaf blowers.
The actions by local citizens can help minimize the extent of the ozone violations, which could be a factor in EPA’s consideration of air quality regulations for our community, said Kay Johnson, City of Wichita Environmental Initiatives Manager.
“We need to do everything we can to keep the ozone levels as low as possible, even though the excessive heat and other factors are the major causes for the excessive levels,” she said.
Local ozone readings are also influenced by windblown pollutants transported from other geographical areas.
“Although we can’t control the ozone that is transported to us from other areas, local citizens can make a difference in maintaining acceptable ozone levels,” Johnson said.
KDHE also warned that unhealthy levels of ozone can cause throat irritation, coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, increased susceptibility to respiratory infection and aggravation of asthma and other respiratory ailments. These symptoms are worsened by exercise and heavy activity.
Children, elderly and people who have underlying lung diseases such as asthma are at particular risk of suffering from these effects. As ozone levels increase, the number of people affected and the severity of the health effects also increase.
To avoid experiencing these effects, vulnerable citizens should limit outdoor exercise and strenuous activity and stay in an air-conditioned environment during the afternoon and early evening hours when ozone levels are highest. Outdoor exercise and activities should be scheduled in the morning hours. Individuals who experience respiratory symptoms should consult their doctors.
Wichita Area Ozone Readings
Air quality levels in the Wichita area on Monday and Tuesday exceeded the EPA ozone standard. The maximum allowable eight-hour average for ozone is 0.075 parts per million (ppm).
The following eight-hour averages in ppm were recorded this week at the continuous air monitors located in Sedgwick County and northern Sumner County:
|City of Sedgwick
|City of Sedgwick
Ground level ozone is formed by a chemical reaction that needs heat from sunlight, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to form. The months of April through October make up Kansas’ “ozone season.”
Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is caused by sunlight and the reaction of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Emissions from agricultural burning activities, industrial facilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are some of the major man-made sources of chemicals that cause ozone (primary component of smog) to be formed.