Environment & Public Lands
5:35 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

State Officials Warn of Invisible Ozone Threat

Utah regulators are trying to educate people on the dangers of ozone, an invisible gas produced by smog that doctors say taxes the lungs of even healthy people.

The press conference took place under clear blue skies at a park in Woods Cross, with children playing nearby. It seemed like a nice day, but Director of the state’s Division of Air Quality Bryce Bird says ozone often goes overlooked because people can't see it.

“We maybe all fall into that trap a little bit, that it’s a beautiful sunny day outside, we should be outside exercising, but when we get the afternoon spikes in ozone, it does impact people with underlying respiratory conditions, with asthma, young children, elderly adults as well,” Bird says. “Our underlying message is you can’t trust your eyes.”

Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Health Robert Rolfs says state officials are beginning to understand the dangers of ozone pollution, and are advising people to avoid heavy exertion outside when ozone levels are high.

“I think we’re increasingly learning that it is a dangerous chemical that has long term consequences. The evidence is there that is shortening people’s lives, particularly for people who already have heart disease or asthma, it’s a real concern,” Rolfs says.  

State officials say ozone levels are generally highest between noon and 6pm, and the safest time to exercise is in the morning before noon and after sunset. They advise people to check the state’s website for current and forecasted pollution levels. Ozone has yet to hit dangerous levels this summer. Readings around Salt Lake City have hovered just inside the safe zone, but officials warn wildfire smoke and stagnant conditions can make things worse.