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Tucson area air polllution hits harmful levels Friday, Pima County warns

Air pollution in the Tucson metro area hit harmful levels on Friday, prompting an advisory from Pima County that residents should avoid intense physical outdoor activity.

Residents, especially anyone sensitive to air pollution, should limit how much they exert themselves outside between noon and 6 p.m., officials said.

Forecasts for Tucson say that concentrations of ground-level ozone in the air will be strongest between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday, with elevated levels returning for a short time on Saturday at 1 p.m., but they should drop down to more normal levels by Sunday and Monday.

“Individuals who are especially sensitive to air pollution may experience shortness of breath, coughing, throat irritation, wheezing and breathing discomfort,” Department of Environmental Quality officials said.

PDEQ detected high amounts of ground-level ozone in the Tucson metro area’s air. Ground-level ozone commonly comes from car exhaust, industrial and power plant emissions and volatile organic compounds, or hydrocarbons, that react with heat and sunlight, PDEQ said.

People who might be sensitive to ozone include children, adults who are active outdoors, people with respiratory diseases and certain individuals who have an unusual sensitivity to this particular pollutant, PDEQ said. Anyone feeling symptoms should seek medical attention, the advisory warns.

According to the advisory, intense physical outdoor activity also allows ozone to penetrate into part of the lungs more likely to be injured.

PDEQ recommended the following actions to reduce adding to ground-level air pollution:

  • Reduced driving and combining errands.
  • Avoid leaving the engine running.
  • Refuel cars after 6 p.m. when vapors are less likely to form air-pollutants like ozone.
  • Always stop at the click when refueling.
  • Avoid using gas-powered lawn and gardening equipment.
  • Check tire pressure monthly to reduce gas use.
  • Conserve electricity to reduce emissions from power plants.

The advisory is the first issued since mid-July in a week where there were three such advisories in a row. The first air advisory warning issued by PDEQ last year was on June 14. The air advisory on Friday is the ninth such air pollution warning by the county for 2022.

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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A hazy Downtown Tucson on Friday, August 5, 2022.