Ozone and smoke trigger Colorado to overlook one other deadline on air high quality normal – CBS Denver

DENVER (CBS4) – Much of Colorado’s central and northern Front Ranges is likely to miss another deadline for meeting EPA air quality standards for ozone on Tuesday. Much of the area has been trying to improve ozone levels since the 8-hour National Air Quality Standard was introduced in 2008.

The state’s inability to improve within the standards led to a reclassification of the area from “moderate” to “serious” in 2019 just two years ago.

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According to the Clean Air Act, areas that do not meet national ozone standards in time are upgraded to a higher non-compliance status. The next step up would be “difficult”.

“Ozone high up in the stratosphere is good, protects us from ultraviolet radiation. I doubt the service if we breathe it, that’s another story, ”said Scott Lendes, Supervisor for the Air Pollution Control Division in Colorado. “One of the best descriptions I’ve heard of it almost sunburns your lungs.”

The deadline comes at an inopportune time. Much of the state suffered from smoke from forest fires in the west this year. In 2020, Colorado was hit by massive fires.

“Ozone is created from different types of pollutants emitted by our industry, from our vehicles, from forest fires and mixed with sunlight, and that’s what creates ozone,” said Danny Katz, executive director of CoPIRG, the nonprofit research group of public interest. “Ozone is complicated. Ozone is not a singular pollutant that comes from somewhere. “

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But fires didn’t help. Smoke from fire has made breathing and vision worse. Flights to and from Denver International Airport early Monday were delayed due to visibility problems. Tiny particles can cause several problems in people, especially those with asthma or other breathing problems. You breathe them in and the problem with that is that you have trouble breathing them out, they get stuck in your respiratory system, ”Lendes said. “But a lot of research now shows that these fine particles can actually get into your bloodstream,” where they can cause problems for people with heart problems.

Ozone is created on the ground when chemical reactions between volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in sunlight with nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are mostly produced by humans. Man-made ozone has declined due to emissions restrictions for automobiles and industry, Lendes said, but the levels are still above the EPA’s air quality goals. Fires make it worse.

“Given climate change and the long-term drought in the western US, I don’t see this as a problem that will go away anytime soon,” added Lendes.

CoPIRG sees further need for action on the part of the communities affected by ozone problems.

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“There are a number of things we have to do,” said Katz. “We have to switch to cleaner vehicles, usually electric vehicles. We need to give people more options so they don’t have to go everywhere, and we need to make sure that the industries that produce pollution reduce that pollution. Finally, we have to fight climate change and make sure we don’t worsen the forest fire season. “

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