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Rise in Pima County pollution predicted for summer

Car emissions, heat combine to created ground-levle ozone

Despite low levels of air pollution this past winter, as we approach summer and the temperatures begin to rise, high temperatures and vehicle emissions combine to form a threatening pollutant called ground-level ozone.

Ground-level ozone is caused from vehicle emissions that combine with heat and radiation to create a chemical reaction. It is different from the ozone layer that naturally occurs in the atmosphere and helps protect us from the sun, said Beth Gorman, spokeswoman for Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, in a news release.

The ozone can cause short-term health effects such as chest pain, coughing, nose and throat irritation and can increase symptoms for those with respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

"All it is going to take is a bad summer like we had in 2005 and we could be in violation of the Environmental Protection Agency health standard. We are trying to inform and encourage the public to take action," said Gorman.

The county is reminding residents to make sure their tires are inflated properly, to avoid extended engine idling near schools and drive-through lanes, and to carpool, bike, ride the bus or walk at least once a week.

PDEQ has 19 sites around eastern Pima County that monitor the air for carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, airborne lead, and other particulates, according to its website.

PDEQ maintains real-time ozone maps that show where levels are high. Residents can sign up to receive e-mails when air pollution levels are high and when they may cause health problems at PDEQ's website or by calling 882-4AIR. 

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Ruben de Rijcke via Wikipedia Commons

Emissions from cars and power plants burn fossil fuels contribute to the creation of the ground-level ozone.