Ozone levels ‘dangerously high’ in European summer

While pipped to the post by the record-breaking levels witnessed during the infamous heat wave of 2003, ozone reached a point where it threatened human health in Mediterranean Europe last summer.

This summer the European Environment Agency (EEA) will be launching an online tool allowing the public to track ozone levels and their impact on air quality in their neighbourhood.

The idea came after an analysis of ground-level ozone pollution in Europe last summer showed that concentrations of the gas went way beyond safe levels, with southern countries hardest hit.

According to the document, Air pollution by ozone in Europe in summer 2005, Portugal reported the highest single reading of the summer with Greece, Italy, France, Romania and Spain also experiencing dangerous levels likely to have serious health implications.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany had levels considered unsafe at times, but less serious than their southern neighbours.

Ground level ozone forms as part of a photochemical process when nitrogen oxides, released in abundance by traffic fumes, react with volatile organic compounds.

Concentrations tend to soar in summer months when still air and high temperatures both add to the build up in localised areas.

As well as harming human health, high ozone concentrations can damage crops and other vegetation.

Once up and running, the EEA’s Ozoneweb will provide information on ozone levels all over Europe, updated hourly, as well as background information on the cause of high concentrations, health impact and what can be done to reduce the risk.

At the time of publication the site was under construction, but once up and running should be found by following the link.

Sam Bond

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