Advance View: Ozone friendly, but at a distance

Ozone protects us… but it’s deadly, nonetheless.

Ozone is crucial to life on Earth. At concentrations as modest as only eight parts per million, the ozone in the stratosphere blocks much of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Closer to the ground, however, it can be detected by some people in concentrations as low as 10 parts per billion – and it can be a serious problem, especially for the elderly, small children, and anyone with inherent breathing difficulties caused by lung or heart problems or asthma.

All of that would only be an interesting bit of trivia, if it weren’t for the fact that hot weather – such as we are currently experiencing – coupled with normal to high levels of air pollution can cause a build-up of ground-level ozone.

And that, according to Metro Vancouver air quality monitors, is what has been happening, particularly in the eastern parts of the regional district, during the current hot spell.

The high concentrations of ground-level ozone are expected to persist for several days, probably until the current weather system moves along.

The Air Quality Advisory suggests avoiding strenuous outdoor activities during mid-afternoon, when ozone levels are highest.

Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly, and those who have underlying medical conditions, as noted.

If you are experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing, follow the advice of your health care provider, and stay indoors in air-conditioned spaces.

While you’re at it, pay attention to the other dangers of unusually hot weather, like dehydration and the heat itself.

Drink plenty of liquids, especially water.

Try to keep cool – if you don’t have an air conditioner at home, find a mall or public building to get away from the heat.

And be mindful of the dangers of kids and pets left in hot cars.

– B.G.

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