An Ozone Action Day Alert for El Paso County and several other Front Range areas was issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Wednesday.
The alert calls for residents to limit driving from Wednesday evening through 4 p.m. Thursday in nine other Colorado counties, including Douglas, Jefferson, Denver, Arapahoe, Adams, Broomfield, Boulder, Larimer and Weld.
“Ozone concentrations will mainly be in the moderate category on Wednesday,” reads the alert. “However, light winds, warm temperatures, and ample sunshine will lead to unhealthy for sensitive groups ozone concentrations in the Colorado Springs area as well as the southern and western portions of the Denver Metro Area on Thursday.”
The alert stated that there was an increasing likelihood of respiratory symptoms and breathing discomfort in active children and adults, as well as people with lung disease. It was recommended that they reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion.
This is the second Ozone Action Day for Colorado Springs in the past month.
Ozone is a colorless, odorless reactive gas found naturally in Earth’s stratosphere and also near its surface, where pollutants emitted from vehicles, household chemicals, power plants and activities such as oil and gas production react in sunlight to form it. The main component of smog, ozone can cause difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and coughing and exacerbate lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, according to the EPA.
Colorado Springs could violate federal air quality standards if smog isn’t kept in check.
Last summer, ozone levels measured by regional air quality monitors at the Air Force Academy and in Manitou Springs exceeded the limit mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency several times.
If ozone concentrations again exceed that threshold this year, vehicle emissions testing and other mitigation measures might be required to fix the problem, officials say.