Summer months — especially ozone action days — can be tough on people with asthma and allergies. Phones ring constantly at the offices of medical doctors such as Todd Holman at East Texas Allergy & Asthma Associates in Longview.

“For a percentage of patients, this (ozone action day) has a huge impact on their breathing,” Holman said. “We have lots of calls as the weather stays hot and dry.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued the first ozone alert of the summer Wednesday for the Marshall-Longview-Tyler corridor.

The state environmental agency declares ozone action days when atmospheric conditions are expected to be favorable for formation of ground-level ozone, which forms when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere combines with natural and man-made emissions, such as exhaust from smokestacks and traffic. Conditions are always worse on hot, still days.

“If someone already has a respiratory problem, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — those people need to stay inside,” Holman said. “The higher level of air pollution makes breathing tubes more twitchy and irritable.”

Symptoms of ozone irritation include shortness of breath, cough, chest congestion or mucous or difficulty performing normal activities.

The East Texas corridor Wednesday was under a warning that the air was unhealthy for sensitive groups, including people with lung disease, people with asthma, children and older adults.

People on ozone action days are encouraged to limit time outside and to refrain from filling gas tanks, using washing machines or mowing lawns during the hottest hours of the day.

“If you have to work outside, certainly people may experience shortness of breath. We see increased inhaler use on these days,” Holman said. “Different people are irritated by different things. And some are irritated at lower or higher concentrations.”

To protect themselves and help reduce air pollution, TCEQ officials suggest people:

Drive less. Carpool, walk and bike, combine errands and care for your car. Be sure your gas cap is on tight.

Refuel your vehicle, mow grass and use gas-powered lawn equipment and off-road vehicles after 6 p.m.

Postpone chores that use oil-based paint, varnishes and solvents that produce flame.

If you barbecue, use an electric starter instead of starter fluid.

Take your lunch to work or walk to lunch.

Conserve energy in your home.


June 28, 2012