Health Watch - Ozone Pollution

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

A sunny summer day could lead to breathing problems.

We normally think of a sunny summer day as the ideal for health and happiness. But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say a hot, sunny day can be a bad one for people with some lung conditions.

Heat and sunlight trigger reactions with chemicals from vehicle exhaust and factory emissions to create ground-level ozone. Many weather forecasts let you know about ozone alerts - days when ozone levels are higher than normal. When ozone reaches red or purple levels, doctors recommend that children, older adults and people with lung conditions like asthma stay indoors in an air conditioned environment.

But everyone should be aware of ozone pollution. Dr. Carlos Girod, a lung specialist UT Southwestern, says recent studies suggest that chronic exposure to ozone may trigger asthma attacks or lead to lung disease. Animal studies suggest that repeated exposure to ozone alters lung development, which may cause chronic lung disease.

Ozone is at its worse between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Even healthy people should avoid exercising outdoors during those hours.

You can do your part to reduce ozone pollution by limiting your use of combustion engines -  such as cars or lawnmowers - during the hottest part of the day, especially on ozone-alert days. When there's an ozone alert, try to take public transportation so there will be fewer vehicles on the road and fewer emissions polluting the air. 


July 2004

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