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Ozone Bioindicator Garden Project

  Environmental Effects

Surface Ozone Air Pollution Monitoring
The Environmental Protection Agency has set up more monitoring stations across the U.S. . The monitoring systems show increased pollution laden air masses travel well beyond local areas where ozone and its photochemical precursor pollutants are initially produced . Your local air quality can change by the hour, and or day by day. AIRNOW has established an Air Quality Index (AQI)- A guide to Air Quality and Your Health. The index provided by AQI is designed to provide information about local air quality, how the unhealthy air may affect you, and recommendations to protect your health. The quality of air affects how you live and breathe.

Ozone Air Pollution Harmful to Humans
Concern for poor air quality is reflected most during hot summer days as “ozone alert days,” or some other phrase used to warn citizens to restrict outside activity due to the likelihood of higher exposures to ozone. Why? Because exposure to elevated concentrations of surface ozone over extended periods of time causes health problems. Ozone damages the immune system’s defenses, making one susceptible to lung infections. Ozone also causes acute respiratory irritation, breathing problems, and aggravates asthma. The pollutant decreases lung capacity by anywhere from 15 to more than 20 percent in sensitive individuals.
      Children and the elderly are at greatest risk from surface ozone exposure. Children spend more time outside involved in vigorous activities and have a greater demand for intake of air. Their respiratory systems are developing and are most susceptible to permanent damage. The elderly are also more sensitive to ozone because their immune systems and breathing capabilities are not as strong as when they were younger.

Ozone Air Pollution Harmful to Plants
Plants are not unlike humans, but the opposite process takes place. Whereas humans take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, plants need to take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, the process they use to produce their own food and give off oxygen as a byproduct. Healthy plants are actively ”taking in” the air. Along with carbon dioxide, ozone passively enters leaves through their stomata. Stomata are small pores, usually on the underside of a leaf, that allow gases to enter or leave. In the presence of sunlight and water the stomata are open and carbon dioxide enters. The plant uses the carbon dioxide to make its food, such as sugars and starches in the all-important process know as photosynthesis, but at the same time, water exits the leaf through the process known as transpiration. If ozone is present in the air, it too will enter the leaf through the open stomata, following much the same path as the carbon dioxide.

picture of ozone damage on bean plants

Ozone interferes with a plant’s ability to produce and store food. It weakens the plant, making it less resistant to disease and insect infestations. In some sensitive agricultural crops, such as varieties of beans, exposure to ozone air pollution also affects the plant’s ability to reproduce, thus decreasing crop yield (e.g., bean production size and numbers are reduced).

go to Page Curator: Jay Madigan
NASA Official: Dr. Margaret Pippin
Page Last Modified: 09/28/2016 14:23
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