As the weather warms up and an abundance of sunshine is welcomed, the Fort Carson community is encouraged to do its part to minimize peak ground-level ozone, which is an increased risk in the summer.
Having more ozone in the air can harm both the quality of the environment and impact human respiratory health. This may also prompt state regulators to act. Unfortunately, the Pikes Peak Region is on the verge of a threshold of ground level ozone identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and in danger of exceeding that threshold as the area continues to grow.
Exceeding ozone thresholds could come sooner rather than later as limitations are measured over time. The average of ozone within a three-year period may put the region at risk of strict measures to reduce current levels.
The region uses two real-time monitoring sites for ozone, located at Manitou Springs and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Ozone can be “good” or “bad” for health and the environment depending on where it is found in the atmosphere. Stratospheric ozone, which occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere, is beneficial because it protects living things from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet radiation. Ground-level ozone, however, is harmful to human health and the environment. It can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma.
Unlike air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, ozone does not come from one particular source, like the tailpipe of a car. Ozone forms (think smog) when sunlight causes a reaction between gases from chemicals such as household cleaning products, paints, varnishes, fuels, etc., and highly reactive nitrous oxides that are emitted from cars, trucks, buses, power plants and off-road equipment.
If the region exceeds these levels, possible outcomes in the area include voluntary measures to reduce emissions and for industrial facilities to install equipment to reduce pollution. An area strategy may include improvement to mass transit systems and local incentives or encouragement to reduce emissions from motor vehicles, including:
- Introducing carpool lanes.
- Providing incentives to use mass transit.
- Encouraging fueling vehicles at different times of the day.
- Encouraging biking and walking.
- Reducing idling emissions especially from diesel buses and trucks.
- Providing incentives to use renewable fuels and
- Additional measures to encourage behaviors from the public that may have an impact on local air quality.
Because Colorado Springs sees on average 247 days with sun, the local area is especially susceptible to ozone's potential to cause respiratory health effects and even affect sensitive vegetation and ecosystems, including forests, parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas.
There are several ways to reduce regional ozone levels and prevent them from escalating that can be incorporated in people’s day-to-day work and recreational activities on Fort Carson and off-post, especially since air pollution does not recognize fence lines:
- Combine car trips when running errands.
- Take public transportation when possible.
- Walk or bike instead of driving.
- Carpool or vanpool instead of driving.
- Use low volatile organic compound (VOC) cleaners and paints.
- If needing to mow grass on a hot, sunny day, do it after 5 p.m.
- Don’t let the car idle for more than 30 seconds.
- Fill up the gas tank in the evening when it’s cool.
- Stop refueling when the nozzle clicks the first time.
For more information about how Fort Carson manages outdoor air quality, call 719-526-2091.
For more information about ozone, visit https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution/ground-level-ozone-basics or https://cdphe.colorado.gov/ozone-and-your-health.