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Published on May 19, 2024
Tucson Faces Ozone Action Day, PDEQ Urges Caution and Personal Action to Protect Air QualitySource: Google Street View

As the hot sun beats down on Tucson, the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) has issued a red alert for residents: an Ozone Action Day was declared for the metropolitan area, signaling that air quality concerns are not just a whisper on the breeze. The PDEQ cautions that levels of ground-level ozone, an invisible yet insidious contaminant, have reached an elevation that could threaten public health, particularly for vulnerable groups. Those with respiratory illnesses, children, and even healthy adults engaged in outdoor exertion, are being warned to limit their outdoor activities between the peak hours of noon and 6 p.m., per the advisement on the official PDEQ website.

In response to this acute environmental challenge, the PDEQ has listed a series of recommended personal actions to help choke off the production of ground-level ozone - from the simple act of checking one's tire pressure to the broader communal push to conserve electricity. Knowing first-hand the irritation of a wheezing breath or shortness of breath, sufferers of these pollutants can attest to their eagerness to see these measures adopted widely. The PDEQ earnestly emphasizes the immediate steps residents can take, ranging from carpooling and avoiding gas-powered yard equipment to refueling vehicles after dusk, in hopes of uniting the community against this common and unseen adversary.

It's an all too familiar scene, a haze that mars the blue skies of our collective imagination, one wrought by the chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight and heat. Such emissions originate from various sources, including industrial and power plant discharges, motor vehicle exhaust, and even the seemingly benign action of filling a gas tank. On this day of action, eyes once again turn to PDEQ's 16 monitoring sites scattered across the region and the real-time data they provide, data that serve as both a beacon of awareness and a call to action, accessible on the PDEQ website.

For those looking to stay ever-vigilant in the face of environmental concerns, the PDEQ offers a subscription service for residents to receive notifications directly regarding Air Pollution Action Day advisories. It's a modern-day smoke signal, alerting the townsfolk to gather in defense of their collective lung health, tied to the very air they breathe. While individuals take measures within their power, the broader implications of ozone levels on public health loom heavily over the rooftops and playgrounds of Tucson and the greater Pima County area.