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City issues alert for high ozone levels

Albuquerque issued a health alert Tuesday due to high measurements of ground-level ozone.

The alert advises those with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory and heart diseases, in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County to limit outdoor activity.

The alert expired at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Jeff Stonesifer, meteorologist with Albuquerque’s Air Quality Program, said the sun drives the creation of ozone.

Pollutants including volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide react in sunlight to produce ozone. Those pollutants are emitted from vehicles, power plants and other industrial sites.

“Ozone is odorless and colorless,” Stonesifer said. “It irritates lungs and can damage plants and crops.”

Ground-level ozone is most likely to be high in the summer, according to the city’s website. Ozone levels typically decrease later in the day.

Stonesifer said two of the city’s air quality monitoring stations reported ground-level ozone at measurements above the Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold of 70 parts per billion.

The foothills station and Del Norte station both recorded ozone levels at 80 parts per billion, which means the air’s ozone is unhealthy for people with respiratory problems.

Stonesifer said the city also issued a high ground-level ozone alert on Saturday, the first one for 2019.

“The ozone levels were high at the Del Norte station, but a thunderstorm broke it up,” Stonesifer said.

This is the first year Albuquerque has issued alerts for high ozone levels.

Stonesifer said this summer’s ozone levels were down significantly from last summer, when wildfire smoke from the West increased the pollutants that lead to ozone creation.

The meteorologist said Albuquerque residents can reduce ozone levels by filling up vehicles with gas at the end of the day, using electric lawn equipment, driving less, using mass transit, purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles and using less electricity.