What is it?
Ozone is a gas that occurs both in the earth’s upper atmosphere and at the earth’s ground level. In the upper atmosphere, ozone protects life on earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
Ozone on the ground level is the main ingredient of smog. It is formed when sunlight reacts with pollution from vehicles, power plants, and industrial sources. Ozone pollution is worse in the afternoon and early evening.
Ozone can also be manufactured. It is used to purify air and drinking water, control mold and bacteria, and disinfect laundry in commercial settings.
Where is Ozone found?
How can I be exposed to Ozone?
Ozone commonly enter(s) the body through:
- Breathing polluted air, especially smog in the summer
- Touching water purifiers or water treated with ozone
What happens when I am exposed to Ozone?
Breathing ozone can cause:
- Chest pain
- Coughing and wheezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Irritation of the lungs and throat
Long-term exposure to ozone can cause:
- Lung damage and reduced lung function
- Inflammation of airways
- Respiratory distress
- Aggravated lung diseases
- Increased asthma attacks
- Increased risk of early death from heart or lung disease
Who is at risk for exposure to Ozone?
Everyone can be exposed to some ozone, especially in the summer. People who are most at risk when exposed to ozone are:
- People with asthma or other lung diseases
- People who exercise or work outside
- Children and older adults
Reduce your risk
If you think your health has been affected by exposure to ozone, contact your health care professional.
Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
- Do you exercise or work outdoors during the summer?
- Be aware of ozone air quality levels, especially in the summer or when outdoor temperatures are high.
- Avoid exercising or working outdoors when ozone levels are high.
- If you are elderly, or have asthma or any other respiratory diseases, avoid being outdoors when ozone levels are high.
- If ozone levels are high, limit your children’s time playing outdoors.
National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases
- Ozone Layer Protection (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Ozone: Good Up High, Bad Nearby (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Air Quality Guide for Ozone (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Ozone (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Air Trends: Ozone (Environmental Protection Agency)
- The Ozone Hole and Science (United Nations )