March 1 marks the start of Ozone Season – a time when air pollution can reach unhealthy levels for sensitive groups of individuals. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) is part of a network of agencies across the country that issues daily air quality forecasts and notifies the public when these levels become a threat to public health.
In 2019, for the first time, Air Quality Alerts from MORPC will also be available from the National Weather Service through its website, NOAA Weather Radio and on social media.
Central Ohio typically experiences higher levels of ozone pollution during the warmer, summer months. Ground-level ozone is a gas produced when emissions from vehicles, lawn equipment and industry combine in the presence of sunlight. MORPC also monitors particle pollution, a mixture of solids and liquid droplets in the air, from sources including car and truck exhaust, electrical power plants, and industrial facilities.
MORPC uses the Air Quality Index (AQI) to inform the public about daily ozone and particle pollution levels in Central Ohio. The AQI scale runs from 0 to 300 — the higher the AQI value, the greater the health concern. When levels reach above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, which includes people with respiratory and heart disease, children and older adults. MORPC issues an Air Quality Alert to the public when pollution levels are forecasted to reach 101 or higher.
People with asthma are more likely to suffer an increase in the number and severity of symptoms during an Air Quality Alert. Individuals who are active outdoors should be aware of respiratory or cardiovascular effects resulting from unhealthy air including coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. To decrease the potential for health problems, individuals in the sensitive groups are urged to limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Exposure to air pollution can be reduced by saving strenuous outdoor activities for the morning or late evening, when pollution levels are generally lower.
Residents can help reduce emissions contributing to air pollution by carpooling, biking, walking and taking the bus. With MORPC’s Gohio Commute available at morpc.gohio.com, residents can explore the many commuting options available in Central Ohio. Other simple actions to take for air quality include avoiding idling your vehicle, refueling after dark, and avoiding the use of gas-powered lawn equipment on Air Quality Alert days.
For Air Quality Alert notifications delivered straight to inbox or phone, residents can visit morpc.org/airquality. They can also call MORPC’s toll-free air quality hotline at 1-888-666-1009 for the latest forecast in planning their day to reduce exposure to air pollution. MORPC’s toll-free Air Quality hotline has English and Spanish language options to best serve the Central Ohio community.
Residents can also visit the National Weather Service at weather.gov to find out about Air Quality Alerts.