Ozone levels pose health risk even below current U.S. air safety standard: expert

Mar 18, 2011

Exposure to ozone even at levels below the current U.S. standard for safe and clean air poses a breathing risk for healthy people.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill working with colleagues from the found that breathing a level of ozone at 0.06 parts per million (ppm), which is below the current U.S. standard of 0.075 ppm, can decrease lung function in healthy young adults. is a measure of how well a person is breathing.

Moreover, this study for the first time also shows that a level of ozone below the current safety standard causes people’s airways to become inflamed. This can trigger respiratory attacks in susceptible people, including asthmatics. Increased inflammation also increases response to things to which one is allergic.

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What might this study mean to parents whose children are younger than the study participants?

“Even though this study was done in healthy adults ages 19 to 35, the findings clearly have public health implications for asthmatics and others with lung disease of all ages,” said co-author David B. Peden, MD, MS, director of the UNC Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology. He is also professor of pediatrics and medicine, and chief of the Division of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, Rheumatology and Infectious Diseases in the Department of Pediatrics.

To minimize the effect of ozone, Peden said, one should be alert to forecasts of increased ozone exposure in newspapers and on local weather forecasts. This usually occurs in the summer. “If at all possible, people with asthma should not be heavily exercising outdoors in afternoons on days that ozone will be increased,” he advises. “Also, using controlled asthma medications, which are important for asthma control in general, may be especially helpful at times when ozone will be elevated.”

According to the EPA, variations in weather conditions play an important role in determining ozone levels. Ozone is more readily formed on warm, sunny days when the air is stagnant. Conversely, ozone production is more limited when it is cloudy, cool, rainy, and windy (see: www.epa.gov/airtrends/ozone.html).

Peden and co-authors point out that more than 100 million people in the US now live in counties that do not meet the current standard “and [the] public health consequences are enormous.”

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More information: A report of the research appears online in the January issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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User comments : 3

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2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 18, 2011
lol, so the EPA is trying to build the case that Oxygen is a dangerous pollutant too? Ozone was approved as a safe food additive 10 years ago by the FDA, and it's use in food processing is deemed safe. After more than 10 years of common use in Europe and 10 years here in the US, it's been shown that even at high concentrations it is only a mild irritant. It breaks down to normal O2 in a few minutes too. You also have to keep in mind that Ozone in high enough concentrations will kill bacteria, mold, fungus, and even insects. There are systems you can rent for use in your home or business to flash-treat an enclosed space. Ozone has been safely used in water treatment for decades with no ill effects on water treatment plant staff. So, weighing the known a proven positive effects of Ozone against the obviously questionable claims this guy is making leave me to question his honesty or intelligence.

I wonder what this guy's agenda is?
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 18, 2011
Of course oxygen is a dangerous pollutant. I know of many cases where people died from using too much during their life times...
5 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2011
I'm hopelessly addicted to the stuff. It feels like I can't even go a few minutes without huffing that O2.

Oxygen, not even once.

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