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Earth Friendly: Learn about Clean Living with Darryl and Marie

By By Marie Lester
May 31, 2012 at 12:31 a.m.

Marie Lester, is the Environmental Programs Coordinator for the city of Victoria's Environmental Services Department. You may contact her with topic ideas, inspiration, questions and comments at cmlester@victoriatx.org.

It's time for Clean Living with Darryl and Marie. The city of Victoria's Environmental Services Department's dynamic duo, Darryl and Marie, is here to talk about air quality.

Marie: Hey Darryl, I want to tell you all about Victoria's air quality.

Darryl: What do you mean air quality? Like when it smells really good like cookies, or when it smells really bad like dirty diapers?

Marie: No, no, Darryl. Air quality doesn't have to do with the way it smells, it has to do with pollution that is in the air. Pollution sometimes has a smell, but typically does not.

Darryl: OK, so does this mean you aren't making cookies?

Marie: Fine, I'll make you some organic cookies. But, back to our topic. Victoria has a pollution problem with ground level ozone. Ground level ozone is the exact same thing as smog. Ozone is a highly reactive gas composed of three oxygen atoms. Depending on where it is in the atmosphere, ozone affects life on Earth in either good or bad ways.

Darryl: So is ozone a good guy or a bad guy?

Marie: Stratospheric ozone, the ozone layer, is a good guy. It is formed naturally through the interaction of solar ultraviolet radiation with molecular oxygen. The ozone layer extends from approximately six to 30 miles above the Earth's surface and reduces the amount of harmful ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth's surface.

Darryl: I like the ozone layer, it protects me from the sun. But not as much as I like layer cake.

Marie: I am not making you a cake. Tropospheric, or ground-level ozone, is a bad guy. Ground level ozone forms primarily from reactions between two major classes of air pollutants: volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. These reactions depend on the presence of heat and sunlight, meaning more ozone forms in the summer months.

Darryl: So, you are saying the ozone layer is good, but when ozone forms on the ground it's bad. That's easy to remember - good up high, bad nearby.

Marie: That's right. Ozone Action Days are when there is a lot of ground level ozone around. The Air Quality Index is a color code used to alert the public about Ozone Action Days. The Victoria area calls for an Ozone Action Day when the air quality index is forecast to be unhealthy for sensitive groups or code orange. Code orange sensitive groups include children and adults who are active outdoors and people with lung disease, such as asthma. Sensitive groups should reduce exposure to ozone by staying indoors as much as possible. Victoria's ozone throughout the summer is typically in the green to yellow range with orange days happening on occasion.

Darryl: So, on ozone action days, I should stay inside and watch action movies?

Marie: Exactly. You can sign up to receive ozone alerts at airvictoria.org. You can also download the EPA Air Now app on your smart phone. Here are a few other things you can do to prevent ground level ozone and protect your health:

Conserve electricity and set your air conditioner at a higher temperature.

Choose a cleaner commute - share a ride to work or use public transportation. Bicycle or walk to errands when possible.

Refuel cars and trucks after 5 p.m.

Mow after 5 p.m.

Combine errands and reduce trips.

Limit engine idling.

Use household, workshop and garden chemicals in ways that keep evaporation to a minimum, or try to delay using them when poor air quality is forecast.

Darryl: Those sound like good ideas. Um, Marie?

Marie: Yes, Darryl?

Darryl: The air smells really good right now, are my cookies ready?

Join Darryl and Marie and keep it clean. Find out more at airvictoria.org.

Marie Lester, is the Environmental Programs Coordinator for the City of Victoria's Environmental Services Department. You may contact her with topic ideas, inspiration, questions and comments at cmlester@victoriatx.org.

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