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For Some People, the Air Can Be Hazardous

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RALEIGH — The temperatures are soaring this week and that means the atmosphere is baking. When the heat is high, the air can be dangerous for some people.

Stepping outside on a warm night when air quality is poor delivers a fast message for anyone with a respiratory problem or allergies. All they have to do is inhale.

Ozone is a secondary pollutant in the atmosphere. Ground level ozone is like an air quality stew gone bad. The ingredients are emissions from, among other things, cars idling in traffic, fuel pump spills and lawn mowers.

John Bender says he knows that mowing his lawn is a no-no when it comes to ozone levels, but he does take the warnings seriously.

He says when the air is bad he feels it when he is outside.

His describes it as "a little dizzy, and you just don't feel well after you're done running."

Under acode yellowozone alert, people with respiratory problems should limit their outdoor activity.

Similarly, when it is bumped up tocode orange, and especially when it is the more seriouscode red, it is considered very unhealthy if a person is overexposed.

George Bridgers is with the State Air Quality Division. He likens ozone exposure to a sunburn.

"That actually, in essence, burns the internal parts of their lungs and it's that evening they'll feel some discomfort or their asthma may kick up and be worse," Bridgers says.

Bridgers says while Tuesday's code yellow is moderate, this weekend conditions could be ripe for unhealthful levels of ozone that could warrant a code orange or even a code red alert.

Of course, the best advice is for everyone to minimize the effects of ozone levels, which includes conserving electricity, carpooling, keeping vehicles tuned up and postponing lawnmowing.

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Ken Smith, Reporter
David McCorkle, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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