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Essay: Negative Impact of Ground Level Ozone on Human Health and Environment

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  • Subject area(s): Environmental studies essays
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  • Published: 15 October 2019*
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  • Words: 841 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)

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At ground level O3, or tropospheric ozone, can be harmful to both humans and plants due to the fact that ozone has the ability to oxidize biological tissues (Bell et al. 2005). Tropospheric ozone is known to be a key component of photochemical smog (Ali 2006). Ozone is not released directly into the atmosphere but is formed by many chemical reactions that involve sunlight, oxides of nitrogen, oxides of hydrogen, and hydrocarbons (Seeley et al. 2005). The nature of ozone production results in atmospheric concentrations(Seeley et al. 2005).The dynamic way of ozone generation prompts to environmental fixations that are exceedingly subject to an assortment of components including time, temperature, stickiness, wind bearing, and topographical area (Seeley et al. 2005). The centralization of ozone in the lower environment concentrations commonly extends from 10-120 ppb (by volume) which can be measured by an osmometer(Seeley et al. 2005). When ground level ozone is at elevated concentrations, it is a serious pollutant with well documented effects on human health and agriculture.

Since ground level ozone is a harmful gas mixture of chemicals, it affects most of the living organisms on the planet. In terms of humans however, it affects mainly the elderly, young, and those who are physically active, especially during the summer. Additionally, ozone damage surprisingly can occur without any noticeable signs. According to United States Environmental Protection Agency, after exposure to ozone, one could have a painful cough, feel an irritation in their throat, and/or experience an uncomfortable sensation in their chest which can last hours and lead to more major problems in the lungs or worsen already present lung disorders such as bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. It also continues to cause lung damage even when the symptoms have disappeared. The best way to protect your health is to find out when ozone levels are elevated in your area and take simple precautions to minimize exposure even when you don’t feel obvious symptoms (United States Environmental Protection Agency 1999).

The main health concern of exposure to ground-level ozone is its effect on the respiratory system, especially lung function (Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook 1998). Several factors influence these health impacts, of which include the concentrations of ground-level ozone in the atmosphere, the duration of exposure, average volume of air breathed per minute (ventilation rate), and the length of intervals between short-term exposures. Exposure to elevated concentrations of ground level ozone has also been shown to reduce physical performance, since the increased ventilation rate during physical exercise increases the effects of exposure to ground-level ozone. Similarly, a study done by Oxford University found that ozone can alter the structure of the surfactant or the extracellular lining of the lungs and that there may be interactions with the functioning of macrophages, or the white blood cells in the human immune system. Of the many health issues, the most common at the exposure of ozone are difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and pain when taking deep breaths, lungs being more susceptible to infection, coughing and sore scratchy throat and the possibility of permanent lung damage.

The same properties that allow high concentrations of ozone to react with organic matter outside the body give it the ability to react with similar organic matter that makes up the body, and potentially cause harmful health consequences. Relatively low amounts can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and throat irritation. Ozone may also worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections. Additionally  “Ozone is a potent lung irritant and exposure to elevated levels is a contributor to the exacerbation of lung disease” and it is similar to getting sunburn in the lungs (American Lung Association). In a review of available evidence for the Canadian Smog Advisory Program, two expert panels concluded that health and health-care system effects of ground-level ozone at levels that occur in Canada include lung inflammation, decreased lung function, airway hyper-reactivity, respiratory symptoms, possible increased medication use and physician/

emergency room visits among individuals with heart or lung disease, reduced exercise capacity, increased hospital admissions and possible increased mortality. Similar effects were thought to occur in association with airborne particles, with the exception of inflammatory changes and with the additional effect of increased school absenteeism. At the time the review was conducted (prior to 1995), poor data on individual exposures were identified by the expert panels as a limitation of studies on hospital admissions and mortality.

More recent studies, however, show associations between increased hospital admissions and mortality and air pollutants. Several studies specific to the Utah Valley (known for the low smoking rates of its residents, low levels of ozone and acid aerosols and high levels of PM10, and the presence of an operating steel mill) have evaluated associations between various indicators of health and PM10 pollution. Taken together, they suggest a coherence of associations across various health end points for a specific location and population. Health effects found to be associated with elevated PM10 pollution included: increased respiratory hospital admissions and increased mortality, especially respiratory and cardiovascular mortality.

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