Ozone season begins, county cracking down on pollution

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PHOENIX -- Ozone season is officially here and that means the government is issuing tougher standards and the county is kicking up its enforcement of pollution laws.

Car exhaust contributes

Ozone season begins, county cracking down on pollution - Ozone season is officially here and that means the government is issuing tougher standards and the county is kicking up its enforcement of pollution laws.

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Ozone is a colorless gas that's irritating to the eyes, nose and lungs, and can exacerbate heart ailments and respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency reduced the allowable limit of ozone from .084 parts per million to .075 parts per million.

If Arizona doesn't lower its ozone pollution to comply with the levels set by the EPA, it could face sanctions, including the loss of federal money to build highways.

Ozone levels are highest during the hot summer months. The heat causes a chemical reaction between oxygen and the hydrocrabons and nitrous oxide that make up exhaust from cars and industrial emissions. That's how the ozone forms.

While ozone pollution, which is a concentration of ozone at ground level, can happen in rural areas, it's most common in urban and suburban areas.

During the 2008 reporting term -- April 1-Sept. 30 -- Maricopa County's air-quality monitors exceeded the daily standard on 18 different occasions.

The state and county are working on a variety of projects to reduce ozone pollution, including cleaner-burning fuels, enhanced inspections and encourage carpooling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.