Larimer County officials deal with high ozone levels
Representatives from the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment discussed rising ground-level ozone levels and poor air quality in Larimer County and what residents can do to help mitigate the issue during a virtual meeting last Thursday.
Public Health Director Tom Gonzales, Larimer County Environmental Health Director Chris Manley and Larimer County Medical Director Dr. Paul Mayer presented information on the air quality situation, including the most recent data that shows Larimer County along with eight other counties including Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson and Weld are not meeting federal air quality standards. The biggest concern in Larimer County according to Gonzales is ground-level ozone.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency ground-level ozone, or ground-level ozone, is not emitted directly into the air but is created by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). . This happens when pollutants emitted from cars, power plants, agricultural sources, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants and other sources react chemically in the presence of sunlight. Natural sources such as forest fires and dust can also contribute.
The atmosphere and the weather contribute to the phenomenon in the region. Gonzales said: “When you have very hot days, lots of sunshine, we don’t have clouds and showers in the afternoon, we get this mix in the afternoon…some years we we’re seeing back-to-back hot, dry days with lots of sunlight which only makes this ground-level ozone worse.
“We’re most likely downgraded from EPA ‘serious’ to ‘severe,'” Gonzales said, “Shortly or soon probably by the end of 2023 or 2024, Northern Front Range gas stations will be required to sell cleaner-burning products gasoline Again, this change will hurt the wallet, but gasoline has been shown to reduce precursors that contribute to ground-level ozone.
About 500 Larimer County businesses that previously did not have to be licensed but produce ozone precursors will need to obtain permits to remain compliant.
Denver-Aurora and Fort Collins rank 7th and 18th, respectively, on the list of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities in the United States according to the American Lung Associations 2022 State of the Air study.
The county is currently conducting ambient air monitoring for carbon monoxide, ozone and other pollutants and is working to expand its testing capacity. The county also conducts CFC compliance inspections, issues open burning permits, and investigates air quality complaints. Larimer County is currently meeting federal compliance for carbon monoxide and particulate matter.
Manley explained that the major contributing factor to ground-level ozone in our region comes from transportation. Fill up your car in the evening when it’s cooler. Finally say, “The less we can do in the heat of the day, the better”
During the discussion, Manley gave several examples of ways residents could help reduce pollution, including carpooling, using electric vehicles, avoiding idling in your car, or choosing to ride a bike, walking or telecommuting whenever possible. It was also suggested that lawn and garden work that uses gas-powered equipment be delayed until 7 p.m. Other suggestions included refueling your vehicle in the evening when it’s cooler. “The less we can do in the heat of the day, the better,” he said.
Dr. Mayer discussed the health effects of poor air quality stating that there is a measurable decrease in lung function in some people exposed to these pollutants. He pointed out that the effect of ozone on people is highly variable, but that children and the elderly are most vulnerable to health effects, including irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. and shortness of breath. It can also aggravate asthma and other respiratory symptoms.
Dr Mayer said that to limit exposure to ozone, “the most important thing people can do is to avoid exercising during the hottest part of the day” because the Ozone creation is a combination of sunlight and heat. Exercising earlier in the day can limit this exposure. This is especially important for children, the elderly and people with lung diseases.
Residents were encouraged by panel members to keep up to date with current air quality conditions by visiting sites like AirNow.gov to learn when to avoid spending time outdoors.