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Harmful Code Orange Days Starting Early

High ozone levels occur on hot and sunny days and can be harmful to your health.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - High ozone is already ramping up in the Mid-South due to sizzling spring heat. The Shelby County Health Department warns that when a Code Orange alert is issued, the air could be bad for your health.

Industrial and transportation emissions happen year-round, but in the summer, those emissions can turn to ozone under ripe weather conditions. On days with full sunshine, calm winds and hot temperatures, emissions become stagnant at ground level and that generates ozone. Young children, senior adults, and people with respiratory illnesses such as asthma may have difficulty breathing on Code Orange days.

Bob Rogers, Shelby County Health Department Pollution Control, says, “Very young, very old and people with respiratory problems should limit outdoor exertion. If we were to move up to a code red, we start giving that advice to the healthy population.”

From 1997 to 2011, air quality in the Mid-South has shown signs of improvement. Shelby County still does not meet the requirement for EPA standards on emissions, but the trend is in the right direction. Over the past several years, vehicle engines have become cleaner and individual changes have contributed to the improvement.

The Shelby County Health Department encourages all Mid-South residents to follow the Cool 5:
  1. Carpool or use public transportation to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
  2. Link your trips by combining your errands at one time.
  3. Avoid letting your car idle.
  4. Mow your yard after 7 p.m. to reduce ozone. Ozone needs direct sunlight to form.
  5. Finally, stop pumping gas in your car at the first click. Vapors get forced out of the tank after the first click.

MATA has partnered with the Shelby County Health Department. On Code Orange days, the fare to ride a MATA bus will only be 25-cents.

“The metro area has 1.2 million people; if just a fraction if people made some changes, it can make a measurable difference in air quality,” says Rogers.

To monitor the ozone forecast visit www.airnow.gov.
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