Health Effects of Ozone
Ozone affects the lungs and respiratory system in many ways. It can…
- Irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing, throat soreness, airway irritation, chest tightness, or chest pain when taking a deep breath.
- Reduce lung function, making it more difficult to breathe as deeply and vigorously as you normally would, especially when exercising. Breathing may start to feel uncomfortable, and you may notice that you are taking more rapid and shallow breaths than normal.
- Inflame and damage the cells that line the lungs. Within a few days, the damaged cells are replaced, and the old cells are shed—much like the way your skin peels after sunburn. Studies suggest that if this type of inflammation happens repeatedly, lung tissue may become permanently scarred and lung function may be permanently reduced.
- Make the lungs more susceptible to infection. Ozone reduces the lung’s defenses by damaging the cells that move particles and bacteria out of the airways and by reducing the number and effectiveness of white blood cells in the lungs.
- Aggravate asthma. When ozone levels are unhealthy, more people with asthma have symptoms that require a doctor’s attention or the use of medication. Ozone makes people more sensitive to allergens—the most common triggers for asthma attacks. Also, asthmatics may be more severely affected by reduced lung function and airway inflammation. People with asthma should ask their doctor for an asthma action plan and follow it carefully when ozone levels are unhealthy.
- Aggravate other chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and bronchitis. As concentrations of ground-level ozone increase, more people with lung disease visit doctors or emergency rooms and are admitted to the hospital.
- Cause permanent lung damage. Repeated short-term ozone damage to children’s developing lungs may lead to reduced lung function in adulthood. In adults, ozone exposure may accelerate the natural decline in lung function that occurs with age.