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Pima County concerned about exceeding ozone limits

Updated: Mar. 9, 2020 at 7:02 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County’s air barely makes the cut when it comes to ozone pollution.

The federal cut off for compliance is .070 parts per million. Pima County’s air contains .069 parts per million.

One more tick and Pima County could face federal compliance issues which could be costly to county business but more importantly, for people’s health.

“The standard is set to protect public health,” said Ursula Nelson, the Director of Pima County’s Department of Environmental Quality. “If you’re at or near the standard, or above it, more people are going to get sick.”

Exhaust from cars is the biggest culprit even though automobiles are getting cleaner.

Ozone is known to exacerbate the effects of asthma, increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke and damage the lungs.

Pima County is asking people to drive a bit less.

“There are a million people in the Tucson area,” said Nelson. “Even if half of us, one day a week drove less, that would be a major impact."

Dr. Tara Carr, from the University of Arizona’s School of Medicine, agrees “if we all did a little more, it would make a big impact.”

She pulls up a NASA satellite map which measured air pollution in China prior to the coronavirus outbreak and another one which shows pollution levels a month after lock down.

During the lock down, cars and buses were prohibited on the streets and manufacturing ground to a halt.

NASA described the decrease as significant.

Dr. Carr said the difference proves a point and backs up the county position about getting cars off the road as much as practicable.

“Our impact on the environment, it’s real, it’s tangible,” she said. “It’s reversible and I think we should try to work on reversing it.”

Pima County is hoping a gentle nudge is all the motorists need for the time being.

“We are not going to go to the point of telling people not to drive,” Nelson said. “That wouldn’t be something we would put into regulation.”

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