What Is Ozone?

Don't be fooled just because you can’t see smog. Greater Kansas City’s air can still be unhealthy when ozone levels are high. There are two kinds of ozone: the good kind, in the ozone layer high above the Earth that protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays; and the bad: ground-level ozone, also known as ozone pollution or smog.

Ground-Level Ozone

Quinton's Clean Air-Venture: What is Ozone?

Ozone pollution forms when emissions from sources such as vehicles, lawn mowers, power plants and industry react with heat and sunlight. Ground-level ozone makes it difficult for your lungs to absorb oxygen, making you cough.

Ozone pollution is harmful for everyone, especially to people with respiratory problems such as asthma.

Children are also at high risk when the ozone level reaches “Alert” status.

Contributing Factors for Ozone

Air pollution is not created solely by industry. Although it’s true that coal-burning industrial plants and chemical plants contribute to the problem, more than half of all ozone pollution is caused by everyday people doing everyday things.

What time of day you fill your car’s gas tank, how often you drive your car for short trips, and when you mow your lawn all impact air quality.

A network of eight monitors carefully distributed throughout the Greater Kansas City region measure ozone levels.

How Can I Protect My Children?

Warm sunny days, school vacation and eager kids — summer means playing outside from dawn to dusk. But what about the air kids breathe? Physically, children are more vulnerable to air pollution than adults because their respiratory defenses are not fully developed. Be aware of hot sunny days because ozone air pollution can be unhealthy for children. Here are some other tips that will help you keep your kids healthy:

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When the SkyCast shows elevated air pollution levels, limit the time children spend outdoors and let them play in an area with a good air filtration system. Plan strenuous activities for early morning before ozone levels become dangerous. Keep outdoor activities far away from busy streets.

Keep an eye on your child’s health. Children with asthma are especially sensitive to air pollution. Look for warning signs of undiagnosed asthma, such as chronic coughing and shortness of breath and tell your pediatrician.

Inform caregivers. Make sure your child’s coaches and camp directors know the health risks of air pollution and take measures to protect kids when air quality is unhealthy. If your child has asthma, it is important that caregivers know he or she is especially vulnerable on high ozone days.

Encourage your child to participate in activities that reduce air pollution, like walking, biking or riding public transit. Walking and biking also encourage healthy physical activity habits for years to come.