Air pollution doesn’t have to be conspicuous. Ozone pollution takes form in the background even if the air continues to look clear and transparent. Over time, as this ozone mingles with a variety of other pollutants and becomes more concentrated – commonly addressed as “smog”.
Ozone is one of the most dangerous pollutants in the air. Consider ozone inhalation as something that feels like sunburn on your lungs. While ozone is not the most well-controlled pollutant in the world, scientists continue to discover the health impacts it can cause. Overexposure to ozone has also proved to be fatal in many cases. Let’s find out how, why, when, and under what circumstance ozone transforms into a major health hazard.
What Is Ozone?
Simply put, ozone is a kind of gas molecule made up of three oxygen atoms. Commonly known as “smog”, inhaling ozone can be harmful to health because ozone reacts chemically with the lung tissue and attacks it aggressively, causing several respiratory illnesses.
The ozone layer is housed in the earth’s upper layer (stratosphere) and on ground level. It protects the planet from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, matters change when harmful pollutants mingle with the ozone at ground level. Breathing this ozone can lead to detrimental health problems.
What Health Risks Does Ozone Cause?
When someone inhales ozone, the muscles in their airways begin to narrow, causing the air to get trapped in the alveoli. This results in shortness of breath and constant wheezing. Heightened ozone levels tend to cause the highest damage. Here are the health setbacks ozone exposure causes:
- Difficulty in breathing – causing pain when an individual attempts to breathe vigorously or deeply
- Scratchy, sore throat combined with inconvenient coughing
- Increased susceptibility of the lungs to infections
- Damaged and inflamed airways
- Exacerbating asthma attacks
- Worsening lung conditions like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma
While some of the aforementioned symptoms can be prevalent in healthy people, it is the people with underlying lung diseases and asthma who face painful symptoms.
Long-term ozone exposure is inextricably linked with asthma development or aggravation. Studies also suggest a growing link between long-term ozone exposure and fatal respiratory conditions.
Who Are The Most Susceptible?
While exposure to ozone is detrimental for a majority of the population, specific groups of people are more susceptible to the resulting health hazards.
Older adults, children, and people with asthma are comparatively more vulnerable to ozone. Individuals facing deficiency in nutrients including vitamins E and D and individuals with specific genetic characteristics can also be more vulnerable to ozone exposure.
Ozone pollution also targets people who are often seen outdoors, especially children and outdoor workers. Their still-developing lungs combined with excessive outdoor activity in children considerably increase their risk of exposure and asthma when compared to adults.
How To Safeguard Yourself From Ozone?
The best way to cope with ozone pollution or any form of air pollution for that matter would be to monitor your country’s air quality index. It shows the quality of the air you breathe at any given moment by determining the levels of pollutants including:
- ground-level ozone
- carbon monoxide
- particle pollution (including PM2.5 and PM10)
- nitrogen dioxide
- carbon monoxide
- sulfur dioxide
Stepping outdoors only when the air quality is favorable can help lower ozone exposure. However, when going outdoors becomes necessary regardless of the air quality, using a high-filtration facemask is critical. AusAir’s high-end masks provide certified protection against all pollutants in the air including ozone.