There are thousands of children, elderly and persons with respiratory problems in the Greater St. Louis Region, who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of ozone, and each year many food crops are damaged by low-lying ozone.
Yes. High concentrations of ground-level ozone can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, and eye and throat irritation. There have been studies where healthy adults are exposed to various levels of ozone. The results show that even healthy adults can experience decreased function of their lungs when exposed to ozone. People who suffer from lung diseases like emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and colds have even more trouble breathing when the air is polluted. These effects can be worse in children, the elderly and exercising adults.
Children often play outside during hot, muggy summer afternoons. Their lungs are still developing, and they breathe more rapidly and inhale more air pollution per pound of body weight than adults. They also often breathe through their mouth, which means that the pollution bypasses the body's first line of defense against pollution: the nose. On days when ozone smog levels are high, these factors put children at increased risk for respiratory problems.
Adults breathe about 20,000 times each day. During exercise or strenuous work, we breathe more often and draw air more deeply into the lungs. When we exercise heavily, we may increase our intake of air by as much as 10 times our level at rest. Mouth breathing during exercise bypasses the nose, the body's natural air filter.
Yes. In St. Louis, our summertime ozone levels have exceeded the federal health-based standards every year since the passage of the Clean Air Act. One study done by the Harvard School of Public Health for the American Lung Association shows that in St. Louis, on days of high ozone levels, there is an increase in hospital emergency room visits for respiratory problems. Also, for every ER visit, it means that there are hundreds of other people having problems breathing, visiting our doctors and leading a lower quality life.
For more information about the health effects of ozone contact the American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA.