The European Environment Agency has launched a new website which allows people to enter a place name or simply click on a map of the continent to get an up to date ozone reading for that area.

Ozone Web uses data from more than 500 monitoring stations across the continent, each of which sends a reading back to a central computer in Copenhagen once an hour.

This data is then used to inform the readings given by the website, meaning they will never be more than an hour out of date.

Ground level ozone is one of the most prominent air pollution problems in Europe, presenting environmental risks to human health by damaging the lungs and respiratory system.

Up to 30% of Europe’s urban population is exposed to ozone concentrations above the threshold levels set by the EU. Ozone pollution is responsible for as many as 20 000 deaths in Europe every year.

The website will also give information on the likely health implications of a particular reading.

“As a joint European project, Ozone Web reflects the international character of air pollution,” said Professor Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA.

“It is produced in one place but may have an impact in another many hundreds of kilometres away. The web site is an excellent example of how the EU can create partnerships with member countries to serve and empower its citizens.”

High levels of ozone combine with other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and particulates to create toxic smog but ironically the pollution already prevalent in busy cities can suppress the formation of ozone.

For this reason the worst-hit areas are often outside the main population centres in the suburban belt or rural areas as ozone can be carried up to 500km per day by winds.

The long distances the problem can travel, and air pollution does not respect national borders, make ozone a truly international problem.

Ozone Web aims to keep the public, and those with a professional interest, informed on where hotspots are developing and to keep track of clouds of smog moving across Europe.

“The EU has made it obligatory for countries to alert citizens on a national level when ozone levels reach particular levels.,” said Prof McGlade.

“However, Ozone Web goes much further by allowing you to monitor ozone anytime, from anywhere. You can monitor ozone levels in a neighbouring country or at holiday destination, check recent trends and track the spread of ozone across Europe by the wind.”

Sam Bond

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