Summer-like heat kicks off ozone pollution season early

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hot temperatures and blazing sunshine are settling in over Central Texas, a combination that can be dangerous for certain groups of people.

Local ozone pollution is already on the rise, and is only set to get worse this summer.

On the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail, the dog days of summer are arriving early.

“It was a little bit of a struggle because it’s later in the afternoon,” runner Jesus Chang said. “You feel it, you know?”

With the unseasonable heat comes higher ozone levels and signs are popping up to warn people on the trail.

“As soon as we pulled up and walked across, it’s there,” Chang said.

Alex Featherston and her husband are training for an Ironman triathlon. They try to get out early in the morning to avoid the heat and the ozone that comes with it.

“It’s much easier to breathe,” Featherston said.

Monday was not an official Ozone Action Day, just a day when ozone levels are higher than they should be. But if this is any indication of what is to come, those with asthma or other respiratory problems may be in for a long summer.

“Typically, we start getting our first ozone action days in late May,” said Andrew Hoekzema, who researches local ozone pollution.

Hoekzema recommends people with respiratory problems, as well as seniors, should limit their outdoor exercise during the heat of the day when ozone levels are highest.

“I love to be outside,” Featherston said, “I just try and mostly do it earlier.”

Ozone forms through chemical reactions spurred by sunlight. Levels of the pollutant are highest on days with low winds, high temperatures, and low humidity.

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