What’s up with these Code Orange ozone alerts?

Thanks to hot conditions generated by stagnant high pressure over the region, the low-level ozone is forecast by the Shelby County Health Department Air Quality Improvement Branch to be high enough that a Code Orange Ozone Advisory has been issued for Wednesday.  This is certainly not the first of these advisories to be issued this summer and it won’t be the last.  In fact, it’s possible we could see them for the rest of the week based on the current forecast.

Code Orange means that the air is “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” including those with respiratory problems under normal circumstances (asthma, lung disease, etc.) and active adults and children and the elderly. The Health Department urges everyone to reduce time spent outside and limit prolonged exertion, reduce trips and carpool and limit idling, and schedule outdoor activities in the morning and evening, avoiding the hottest part of the day.  In addition, you can conserve energy but raising the thermostat slightly, turn off unused appliances and lights, and close the blinds or curtains so that less air conditioning is required to cool your home, all in an effort to reduce pollution.
Why are we seemingly under more Code Orange alerts the past couple of years? It isn’t entirely because the air is worse… the federal government recently (2008) changed the air quality standards, requiring stricter compliance and cleaner air.  Therefore, code orange actually requires lower ozone levels than it used to – thus more alerts for the same ozone levels!

For more information on ozone and air quality, visit the following links:

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