Are The High Ozone Levels For Houston Area Worrisome?

Experts say ozone is a little hard to describe. It can have the same effects as smog, but they’re really completely different.

"You can’t see it, but it’s there."

That’s Dr. Latrice Babin with Harris County Pollution Control. She says on any given day if you weren’t told the ozone level was high, you probably would never know it.

"It can look like a beautiful day. And it can be a very beautiful day and you may want to go out and enjoy the day."

But if you already have preexisting breathing problems, high levels of ozone will have the same effect as trying to breath in heavy smog.

"If you’re asthmatic, or you’re immune system's compromised, and you’re outside and you’re running, or you’re working out in the yard and it’s a high ozone day, it makes it hard for you to breath."

Stuart Mueller works in the Harris County department that reviews environmental permits.  He says the government sets standards for ozone and Houston is on the list of cities that has failed to meet them. It’s called nonattainment.              

"We’ve been nonattainment for a long time. Which means yes, we have a recurring, we see elevated ozone layers yearly basically and our ozone seasons typically are in the books from March through October every year."

Stamps: "So this is normal."

"This is not uncommon. That’s what I’m saying."

Unlike smog, Mueller says ozone isn’t created by cars and factories spewing dirty smoke into the air -- at least not completely.

"Ozone’s not something that’s industries emit. It’s something that’s formed in the atmosphere, because of other things that are emitted."

He says hot temperatures bake the emissions and the lack of wind that’s allowing it to just sit there in the air.

The bottom line the experts say is ozone won’t cause an ugly layer of haze, like smog, but it can literally be a pain for people with existing health problems.  

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