WICHITA, Kan. - State and local officials are urging citizens to help lower ozone levels across Wichita. Ozone concentrations exceeded allowable levels raising health concerns and possible federal sanctions. If levels are not lowered, the Environmental Protection Agency could impose federal regulations that could be costly to the local economy.
Residents are asked to help reduce these levels by driving less, car pool when possible, reduce idleing, refueling your vehicle in the evenings and avoid using gasoline powered trimmers and leaf blowers. "We need to do everything we can to keep the ozone levels as low as possible, even though the excessive heat and other factors are the major causes for the excessive levels," Kay Johnson, City of Wichita Environmental Initiatives Manager, said. Local ozone readings are also influenced by windblown pollutants transported from other geographical areas.
KDHE also warned that unhealthy levels of ozone can cause throat irritation, coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, increased susceptibility to respiratory infection and aggravation of asthma and other respiratory ailments. These symptoms are worsened by exercise and heavy activity. Children, elderly and people who have underlying lung diseases such as asthma are at particular risk of suffering from these effects. As ozone levels increase, the number of people affected and the severity of the health effects also increase.
To avoid experiencing these effects, vulnerable citizens should limit outdoor exercise and strenuous activity and stay in an air-conditioned environment during the afternoon and early evening hours when ozone levels are highest. Outdoor exercise and activities should be scheduled in the morning hours. Individuals who experience respiratory symptoms should consult their doctors. "Although we can't control the ozone that is transported to us from other areas, local citizens can make a difference in maintaining acceptable ozone levels," Johnson said.