Higher ozone levels are in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday for parts of eastern Nebraska. The elevated ozone concentrations could pose a risk to the health of those with chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis. It could carry greater regulatory consequences for the Omaha – Council Bluffs metropolitan area if the region fails to meet federal air quality standards.
Officials say another round of temperatures in the 90’s is helping to drive higher the ground level ozone concentration. The Douglas County Heath Department shows the level in the upper end of the “moderate range” of the Federal Air Quality Index for both days.
There are things the public can do to help mitigate the problem. Officials say walking, biking, carpooling or taking public transportation can help. Refuel at dusk or nighttime to avoid greater loss of fuel through evaporation. Choose clean burning biofuels for your vehicle such as ethanol or biodiesel. Do not idle a vehicle for more than 30 seconds. Cap all paints, solvents and cleaners inside garages and homes. Use electric or manual lawn equipment when possible or use gas-powered equipment during cooler hours of the day.
The current EPA standard for acceptable ozone is set at 70 parts per billion. Ozone levels in the Omaha metro area are forecast to be near that limit. Ground level ozone is formed when several common airborne pollutants, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides react with sunlight and heat. Vehicle exhaust and petroleum evaporative loss are the largest sources of these pollutants.
Daily air quality forecasts for the metro area are displayed on digital billboards in Omaha.