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Denver: 13th most ozone-polluted city in the US

Editor's Note: We came across this article on Denver's Channel 7 News, and want to share it with you. Working together, we can get Denver off this unprestigious list.

DENVER - Denver ranks 13th in the country for the most ozone-polluted cities, according to The American Lung Association. This has dramatic effects on our health and all vegetation, too.

Boulder has two Ozone Gardens -- one located at the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR) Mesa Lab, and another at University of Colorado Museum of Natural History -- that educate the public on visual signs of ozone damage to a variety of plants.

Dr. Danica Lombardozzi is a plant expert with the University Corporation of Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and tells 7News, “Well, I think people are usually very surprised when they see how extensive this ozone damage can be.”

While pointing out several examples at one of the Ozone Gardens, she adds, “These spots [in the plants] are a little bigger and easier to see because they’re more brown and larger in size.”

Ozone will weaken a plant’s photosynthesis processes and diminish its overall health. This limits their production of oxygen and limits yields in terms of agricultural vegetation.

Dr. Kateryna Lapina, an Atmospheric Scientist, explains this impact on agriculture: “Some people are not aware that billions of dollars are lost every year across the world just due to ozone damage.”

This damage is a result of ground-level ozone, which is produced when pollutants chemically react with the sunshine. This differs from the beneficial ozone in the upper atmosphere that protects life from harmful UV radiation.

Although a human won’t have visual signs of ozone damage, like a plant, our health can be seriously impacted. Dr. Katherine Tsai is with Colorado Allergy and Asthma and explains the symptoms, “Inflammation in the lungs, nose, and eyes. We can detect it [ozone’s impact on the human body] on a molecular level, but nothing with the naked eye.”

Those with asthma, or other lung-related illnesses, are particularly susceptible. Yet, anyone outdoors will be impacted when ozone levels are high.

According to Dr. Tsai, there is no way to prevent being exposed. However, you can limit your exposure by staying indoors when known allergens and pollutants are at high levels. An HEPA filter will eliminate those particles/molecules that can impact breathing, but that's really only a short-term solution.

The EPA would like to increase regulations on monitored amounts of allowable ozone. However, some of the limits they are considering will put most of the country out of compliance, which would limit types of federal funding to the state.

The EPA is expected to announce any potential changes to their regulations at any time.

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