This week's pollution problems

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Lots of sunshine and lights winds aren't helping the ozone pollution. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Lots of sunshine and lights winds aren't helping the ozone pollution. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

This week’s hot temperatures, abundant sunshine and light winds have created a perfect combination for horrible air quality in the Valley. The culprit?  Ozone.

There’s good ozone and bad ozone. Good ozone occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere above the Earth. It forms a protective layer that helps to shield us from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. This is probably the type of ozone you’re more familiar with, as we’ve heard a lot about the ozone “hole” over the years. 

[MOBILE/APP USERS: CLICK HERE TO SEE THE OZONE LAYER EXPLAINER FROM AIRNOW.GOV]

Ground level ozone is a different story. It’s not naturally occurring, but rather is produced when sunlight combines and reacts with emissions from cars or factories. It’s an invisible pollutant, so we typically don’t see a brown cloud like we do with wintertime pollutants.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Weather blog]

[MOBILE/APP USERS : CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW OZONE IS CREATED, COURTESY OF AIRNOW.GOV]

Ground level ozone is unhealthy to breathe, especially for children, the elderly and people with respiratory illnesses including asthma. Ozone is an irritant to the respiratory system, so physical activity outside is discouraged on days with high levels of ozone. 

[VIDEO: High ozone levels expected in Phoenix]

As you exercise outdoors, you’re breathing faster and deeper, drawing more ozone into the body. Hospital emergency rooms and doctors offices report more patients with lung diseases admitted on these days as well. Ozone can aggravate asthma, making it tougher to breathe, and making your lungs more susceptible to infection. 

[RELATED: Phoenix among top 10 cities on annual air pollution list]

When ozone is expected to approach federal limits, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issues a Health Watch for ozone. When it is expected to EXCEED those limits, ADEQ issues a High Pollution Advisory. We’ve been under a High Pollution Advisory in Maricopa County every day so far this week, and the advisory has been issued for Thursday as well. This is somewhat typical for this time of year. Our "ozone season" in the Valley runs from April through September.

[RELATED: Pollution advisory issued again in metropolitan Phoenix]

As I mentioned, you can avoid ozone exposure by limiting your time outside on days with an HPA. But we can all help cut down on ozone production by driving less on days as well. Carpool if you can, and try to avoid idling in the drive-thru. Wood burning and using leaf blowers are also restricted.

[RELATED: Phoenix area seeing some of worst air quality ever]

How to check the daily ozone levels and forecast: https://bit.ly/2HXDXp8

How to sign up for text or email alerts for air quality alerts: https://bit.ly/2ppY84P

[WEATHER INFO: Weather home | Hourly forecast | 7-day forecast | Interactive map | Weather alerts]

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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