WICHITA - Local officials are urging citizens to respond to an Ozone Air Quality Alert issued on Friday for the Wichita area. The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) will use its digital message boards Friday and possibly through the weekend to notify the public of tips to reduce vehicle emissions.
Ozone concentrations on Thursday and Friday in Sedgwick and Sumner Counties exceeded allowable levels, raising concerns for the third week this summer about health consequences and possible federal sanctions.
Continued violations of the ozone standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Wichita area could result in costly federal regulations that could harm the local economy. Residents and employers are asked to use the following tips:
•Drive as little as possible. Car pool, use public transit or telecommute.
•Reduce idling; avoid congested traffic areas if possible.
•Refuel your vehicle in the evenings and do not top off the tank.
•Avoid using gasoline powered trimmers and leaf blowers.
Actions by local residents can help minimize the extent of ozone violations, which could be a factor in EPA’s consideration of local air quality regulations, said Kay Johnson, City of Wichita Environmental Initiatives Manager. She added that local ozone readings are also influenced by windblown pollutants transported from other geographical areas.
“Although we can’t control the ozone that is transported to us from other areas, residents can make a difference by maintaining acceptable ozone levels,” Johnson said.
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 residents 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.
Air quality levels in the Wichita area on Thursday, July 26, exceeded the EPA ozone standard. The maximum allowable eight-hour average for ozone is 0.075 parts per million (ppm). The eight-hour average in ppm was recorded this week at the continuous air monitors located in Sedgwick County and northern Sumner County. The Wichita reading was 0.078, and the city of Sedgwick reading was 0.077.
Ground level ozone is formed by a chemical reaction that needs heat from sunlight, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to form. The months of April through October make up Kansas’ “ozone season.”
Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is caused by sunlight and the reaction of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Emissions from agricultural burning activities, industrial facilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are some of the major man-made sources of chemicals that cause ozone (primary component of smog) to be formed.
The hot temperatures will continue: The National Weather Service has declared a Heat Advisory for south-central Kansas from noon Saturday through 7:00 p.m. Sunday.