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Alliance members introduce Clean Air Action Plan to reduce ground level ozone levels

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NEWS RELEASE FROM THE CITY OF JOPLIN

Alliance members introduce Clean Air Action Plan to reduce ground level ozone levels

Citizens in the area will soon be hearing more about reducing ground-level ozone levels, thanks to the efforts of the Four States Clean Air Alliance (FSCAA). Today at a press conference, members of the Alliance introduced several methods that the public can easily complete to help alleviate increasing levels of this potentially harmful gas that causes significant negative effects on human health and the environment.

Simple measures, such as unplugging unused electronics, turning up your thermostat slightly during summer, and stopping when hearing the “click” indicating your gas tank is full at the pump are just some of the examples given by the Alliance. These tips were provided along with information, statistics, and the group’s Clean Air Action Plan to begin an educational campaign in the Joplin community and surrounding areas.

Ozone is a gas composed of three oxygen atoms. While ozone can be found both in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and at ground level, the location where it is found determines if ozone is considered beneficial or harmful to humans and the environment. When found in the upper atmosphere, ozone is beneficial by protecting us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, when this same gas occurs at ground-level, it is harmful and causes significant negative effects on human health and the environment.

Although air quality issues have generally been considered a problem for large metropolitan areas, now mid-sized or smaller communities such as the Joplin Metro area have also identified air quality issues as a potential issue. This is especially true for ozone, as federal ozone regulations have become more rigorous in recent years due to the growing awareness of adverse health and environmental effects it can cause. With this increased regulation, acceptable ground-level ozone levels have been reduced to the point that the Joplin Metro area could be considered in violation of these standards in the near future.

Recognizing this risk, the FSCAA was formed through a joint agreement of the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization (JATSO) and the Environmental Task Force of Jasper and Newton Counties (ETF) to develop a plan to reduce the ground-level ozone. The FSCAA is comprised of members from local and area utility companies, industries, municipalities, and affiliated agencies and organizations that have an impact or are impacted by ground-level ozone levels.

After several months of meetings, discussions, and research, the Alliance completed the Clean Air Action Plan as an overview of the work necessary to reduce the levels and identifies three categories of Emission Reduction Strategies, including: Education; Energy Conservation/Utility; and Transportation. Each category lists objectives for the target group, specifying both short term and long term goals.

One of the first steps in reducing ground-level ozone is educating the general public about ozone and its potential risks. Ground-level ozone can cause the following health effects even at low concentrations:

  • Aggravate asthma or other respiratory illnesses
  • Irritate respiratory systems causing coughing and throat irritation
  • Inflame and damage cells that line the lungs
  • Reduce lung capacity, making it difficult to take deep breaths
  • Increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses
  • Increase hospitalizations by aggravating respiratory illnesses

High levels of ground-level ozone can damage plants and other vegetation by making them more susceptible to disease, harsh weather, insects and other pollution.

Ground-level ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) react in the atmosphere with sunlight and heat. Since ozone requires the combination of sunlight and heat to form, it is mainly of concern during “Ozone Season” from April through October. Consequently, FSCAA will apply concentrated education and prevention campaigns immediately before and throughout this time period.

Current public service announcements focus on specific areas, starting with a general message and definition; energy use; and driving. Future topics will emphasize health effects, fueling, lawn mowing, and solvent usage. In addition, the FSCCA has introduced a website, www.summerair.org and is active on Facebook and Twitter. The group’s Clean Air Action Plan can be found on this website, as well as on the Joplin’s Health Department's site at www.joplinhealthdepartment.org.

In upcoming months, members of the FSCCA will also make presentations to area groups and organizations about ground-level ozone. To inquire about this opportunity for your group or for more information, please contact Robin McAlester, Corporate Communications, Empire District Electric Company at 625-5180 or Joplin’s Public Information Officer Lynn Onstot at 624-0820, ext. 204, or visit the summerair.org website.

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