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ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS WHERE YOU LIVE, WORK, AND PLAY

Ozone

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.
 

See also: Factories Gas Station Vehicles and Engines Power Plants Air Pollution

Where is Ozone found?

  • Air – smog, emissions from vehicles, power plants, and industrial sources
  • Consumer products – some air and water purifiers

How can I be exposed to Ozone?

Ozone commonly enter(s) the body through:

Inhalation
Inhalation (breathing)
  • Breathing polluted air, especially smog in the summer
Touching
Skin contact
  • Touching water purifiers or water treated with ozone

What happens when I am exposed to Ozone?

Short-term:
Breathing ozone can cause:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irritation of the lungs and throat
  • Congestion

Long-term:
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
Additional Resources
  • The Ozone Hole and Science
    United Nations
    Information on the ozone hole, and ozone depleting substances in different industry sectors.
  • Air Trends: Ozone Trends
    Environmental Protection Agency
    Data and interactive charts on national and regional ozone level trends from 1980-2017.
  • Ozone
    Environmental Protection Agency
    Information on ozone layer protection, including links to resources addressing ozone depletion, sun safety, and managing refrigerant emissions.
  • Air Quality Guide for Ozone
    AirNow
    A chart that explains the Air Quality Index for ground-level ozone exposure, and a corresponding factsheet on associated health risks, and how to protect yourself.
  • Ozone: Good Up High, Bad Nearby
    Environmental Protection Agency
    Resource on ozone addressing its positive and negative effects, and how its depletion impacts human health and the environment.
  • Ozone Layer Protection
    Environmental Protection Agency
    Information on ozone layer protection, including links to resources addressing ozone depletion, sun safety, and managing refrigerant emissions that are dangerous to the environment.

Science Classroom (Grades 6-8)

Enhance your education on toxic chemicals in our environment using lesson plans, games and activities, videos, informational websites, and more.

Air Pollution: What's the Solution? For Teachers
Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, Stevens Institute of Technology
 Teachers' materials for a curriculum for students in grades 6-12 that includes lessons about ground-level ozone and particulate matter.
Air Quality Facts
American Lung Association
Facts on air quality.

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National Library of Medicine
Well-intentioned, but misguided outer space robot ZERO comes to Earth to help humans by spraying them with ozone. There, ZERO meets a scientist who explains ZERO’s mistake by helping him understand the difference between atmospheric and ground-level ozone.
Weather's Role - Air Pollution: What's the Solution?
Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, Stevens Institute of Technology
Activity for students in grades 6-12 to determine the role of weather in air pollution, and make comparisons and determinations about ozone levels. 
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