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Breathe Easier With This Guide To Colorado’s Summer Ozone Levels

Robert D. Tonsing
Colorado Public News
The brown cloud covering highly populated parts of the Front Range is the visible part of air pollution, but unseen ozone is most dangerous to health.

It’s that time of year -- time to air out the camping gear, grab a fresh pair of sneakers and bask in Colorado’s outdoors. But depending on the day, you may have a hard time catching your breath. That’s likely due to higher levels of ozone, an air pollutant formed when certain types of emissions -- think car exhaust -- react with sunlight. Levels spike in the summer due to warm weather and it’s important to stay informed on ozone levels in your area.

The American Lung Association’s annual State of The Air report is out for 2017. Using data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the report assigns letter grades to cities each year. Steamboat Springs won recognition as one of the cleanest cities in the country when it comes to ozone pollution. Colorado Springs and Pueblo-Canon City made the top ten for cleanest air.

Ozone and your Health

If you have any type of respiratory difficulty, it’s important to be aware of high ozone days. If you live along the Front Range, you can sign up to receive email alerts from the state Air Quality Control Commission. The AQCC also has more information about other health-related concerns around ozone.

What can you do about ozone?

There are many programs to help people cut down on their own contributions to air pollution. Here are a few of them:

If all these programs are available, why do we still see high ozone days?

Much of that is due to something called background ozone -- ozone that travels from other places. Believe it or not, you can blame China. In 2015, NASA concluded air pollution occurring in China travels over the Pacific Ocean, and foils attempts by Western states to improve air quality. Another NASA study from that year cited background ozone as one of the American West’s biggest air quality challenges.

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