City News

Posted on: June 22, 2017

Simple tips can reduce ground level ozone levels

Summer’s here! And so are high temperatures. March through November is Ozone Season, when ground-level ozone becomes a concern as the temperature heats up and the humidity increases here in the Four States. Even though we can’t see low levels of ozone forming in the air, the Four States Clean Air Alliance (FSCAA) wants to keep you breathing easy.  

Ground Level Ozone is an air pollutant formed by chemical reactions involving nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and sunlight. It generally forms on hot summer days, and is one of the six principle pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act. NOx emissions are largely products of combustion.  From small fires and the smallest lawn mower engine to the largest commercial boiler, they all produce NOx.  VOC’s are again caused by combustion, but are also commonly associated with chemical use.  

To help the public better understand this pollutant, Alliance members gathered at Leonard Park to provide tips and suggestions that the public can easily complete. By doing so, it will help alleviate increasing levels of this potentially harmful gas that causes significant negative effects on human health and the environment.

Dan Pekarek, Chairman of FSCAA, noted, “Simple measures, such as unplugging unused electronics, turning up your thermostat slightly during summer, and stopping when hearing the “click” at the gas pump all help reduce the amount of ozone impacting our environment. Also, maintenance of vehicles, gas-powered mowers and yard equipment not only makes them operate more efficiently, but it also decreases the conditions that contribute to ground level ozone.”

He also suggested doing the yardwork in the morning or evening, so the emissions of these tools are not released during the hottest part of the day.

One of the first steps in reducing ground-level ozone is educating the 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.

“We want to create more of an awareness about this issue, and encourage the public to join us in working to reduce the levels,” said Pekarek.

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.

The Four State Clean Air Alliance (FSCAA)  has developed a Path Forward document that describes the issue and lays out voluntary goals and strategies to help in reducing the ground level issue.  Many of the goals found in the document are oriented toward small businesses and individuals and suggest small measures people can do themselves to reduce the risk of ground level ozone formation.  

The FSCCA’s website, provides detailed information. The group’s public service announcements can also be viewed on the site. These focus on specific areas, starting with a general message and definition; energy efficiency, fueling tips, and solvents.  FSCCA is also active on Facebook and Twitter. The group’s Path Forward can be found on this website.

Members of the FSCCA are available to 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 Joplin’s Public Information Officer Lynn Onstot at 624-0820, ext. 204, or visit the website.