THURSDAY, May 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Summertime ozone air
pollution levels in the United States could rise 70 percent by 2050
due to climate change, according to a new study.
That means that nearly all regions of the continental U.S. will
have at least a few days of unhealthy air during the summers. But
heavily polluted areas in the East, Midwest and West Coast that
already have many days with high ozone levels could be faced with
unhealthy air for most of the summer.
"It doesn't matter where you are in the United States -- climate
change has the potential to make your air worse," study lead author
Gabriele Pfister, a scientist at the National Center for
Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said in a center news
"A warming planet doesn't just mean rising temperatures, it also
means risking more summertime pollution and the health impacts that
come with it," she added.
The ozone that surrounds Earth in the stratosphere is
protective, helping to keep the sun's ultraviolet radiation from
causing problems on Earth. Ground-level ozone is different,
according to the center's news release. It forms as a result of
chemical reactions from compounds that occur naturally and those
produced by man, such as emissions from coal burning.
Ground-level ozone can cause a number of health problems, such
as coughing and throat irritation. Ozone can also aggravate the
lungs of people who already have trouble breathing, such as those
with asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Pollution from ozone can
also damage farm crops and other plants, according to the news
The news isn't all bad, however. The researchers' computer model
also showed that a steep decline in emissions of certain pollutants
would result in much lower ozone levels even as temperatures rise
due to climate change.
"Our work confirms that reducing emissions of ozone precursors
would have an enormous effect on the air we all breathe," Pfister
The study was published online in the
Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the
health effects of climate change.