CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Wednesday, for the second day in a row, will be a Code Orange Air Quality day. That means either particulate matter, mainly smoke or pollution levels, could be bad -- or in this case, ground levels of ozone will be bad for sensitive groups.
Particulate matter is easy to spot and smell, it's smoke from fires or smog as you might know it. Hazy skies and pollutants from factories or cars leading to dirty air.
Ozone is different, it's invisible and odorless. Most will think of stratospheric ozone which is high in the sky and protects the Earth from ultraviolet radiation from the sun. That's the good kind of ozone.
The kind we are talking about is near the ground and not good. It forms when emission from cars and factories combines with sunlight through a chemical reaction to create ozone at the ground.
This type of ozone makes it hard to get oxygen into your lungs.
When we go into the orange range of AQI or above 100, it makes it hard for those with respiratory issues or the very young and old to breathe. On some occasions, it makes even the healthy really struggle to keep plenty of oxygen into their lungs.
The fact that we have had days of sunny skies, lots of increasing traffic and little wind or mix the air combined with no rain. All makes for ground-level ozone to build over time. This stagnant airmass can even be made worse by light winds from other cities to our south bringing in their pollutants.
So the best course of action is to try to limited exercise in the middle of the afternoon and stay indoors as much as you can. You can also help by not driving as much or idling your car and not using two-cycle engines like lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and weed eaters in the middle of the day.