Ozone days underscore air
Heat pushes readings above EPA standards
By WAYNE FALDA
Five Ozone Action Days, five violations of the Clean
Every Ozone Action Day called by the Indiana Department
of Environmental Management from Wednesday to Sunday has
been marked by a violation of the federal limit for ground-level
When IDEM personnel examine air readings taken by local
air monitors Monday and today, it is conceivable that
St. Joseph and Elkhart counties will have recorded seven
Ozone, or smog, is a highly reactive form of oxygen that
can irritate lung tissue.
The formation of ozone really gets cooking on hot steamy
days when the strong sun causes a complex chemical reaction
between volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide.
Both are emitted in motor vehicle exhaust.
In addition, nitrogen oxides are released from the smokestacks
of coal-burning power plants. Volatile organic compounds
are also emitted from factory paint-spraying operations,
two-stroke engines like lawn mowers, or from the drying
of solvents and paints.
The Environmental Protection Agency tightened its ozone
regulations in 1997 after years of campaigning by the
American Lung Association, in particular, that ozone aggravated
respiratory ailments worse than what was commonly believed.
Ozone, the association said, contributes to tens of thousands
of premature deaths in the United States each year, especially
among asthmatics and those suffering from emphysema.
Under the new rules, a violation occurs when ozone levels
average 85 parts per billion during any eight-hour span.
Air monitors in South Bend began detecting violations
Wednesday when the ozone average came to 90 ppb, followed
by a reading of 92 ppb on Thursday, 96 ppb on Friday,
102 ppb on Saturday, and 100 ppb on Sunday.
Readings taken by an air monitor in Bristol showed that
Elkhart reached an average of 88 ppb on Thursday, 103
ppb on Saturday and 102 ppb on Sunday.
"It's a concern to have that many days in a row," said
IDEM spokeswoman Courtney Kasinger.
Mid to late afternoon is when the hourly values peak,
Daytime highs have been reaching the low 90s during that
time period. Today will be no different.
There is only a slight chance of afternoon thunderstorms
today and a 50/50 chance tomorrow night.
A slight cool-off is expected on Thursday, when temperatures
should moderate into the lower 80s.
The American Lung Association gave St. Joseph and LaPorte
counties an F grade in its "State of the Air: 2002" report,
while it gave Elkhart County a B based on ozone levels
between 1998 and 2000.
On Ozone Action Days, public transportation rides are
free on buses operated by Transpo, The Bus and the Concord
bus in Elkhart County.
Residents are asked to avoid unnecessary auto trips or
using gasoline-powered motors.
IDEM's Smog Watch Web site can be found at: www.state.in.us/idem/oam/smog.