Summaries of study evidence on various air pollutants and air quality. OBJECTIVITY zone.

May 222011

This post is in initial build-out status and may change.

General Information: Wikipedia and the EPA.

General Mortality

Mortality Evidence Summary - Ozone -

Overall Score: -4.61

Behind the Score: There are almost no clinical trials related to air pollution, of course, but prospective and retrospective studies show a small but significant risk of increased mortality, especially from respiratory causes, due to high ambient ozone levels. 1 2 3 (Ozone is good in the upper atmosphere, not in the lower atmosphere where we breathe.) Although the relative risk of death differs only slightly for higher ozone exposure, the huge numbers of study participants or individuals in the time-series data pool make the conclusions statistically significant.

That said, other studies showed more inconclusive results on ozone or even no effect. 4 Notably, some studies indicated that fine particulate pollution, among other types, was more harmful than ozone. 5 6 7

Warnings and Special Notes: The EPA has a page on indoor air cleaners that produce ozone, warning against their use.

What Now? Human clinical trials related to air pollution are virtually impossible since they are ethically indefensible. Even the prospective studies that showed an increased relative risk of death found that the increase was quite small.

What Can I Do? Moving seems like a drastic step for the small but significant risk posed by ozone. You can check your area’s ozone levels at AIRNow for the U.S., at the European Environment Agency (EEA) site for Europe, and at Environment Canada for Canada and the rest of the world. The EEA also has some tips on what to do to avoid peak ozone levels and minimize the effects of ozone.

Also, if ozone levels are high in your area, building up your body so it can deal better with pollutants is one option, along with taking individual action and supporting environmental initiatives to clean up the air we breathe.