Find out how increased ozone levels cause deaths in US

Find out how increased ozone levels cause deaths in US

Last Reviewed : 12/24/2020
Find out how increased ozone levels cause deaths in US

Ozone is a gas molecule that has three oxygen atoms (O3). Oxygen that we breathe regularly has two oxygen atoms (O2). Ozone may be produced when fossil fuels like gasoline, oil, coal are burnt or when solvents evaporate. NOx is emitted from power plants, motor vehicles and other sources of high-heat combustion. VOCs, on the other hand, are emitted from motor vehicles, chemical plants, refineries, factories, gas stations, paint and other sources.


Well, ozone levels in the atmosphere should be regulated from time to time. If these levels cross the permissible limits, people’s lives will be adversely affected. The people who are at risk are:

  • People with asthma
  • People with cardiovascular disease
  • Children
  • Older or Elderly people
  • Outdoor workers
  • Individuals with vitamin C and E deficiency.

Mechanism of Action of ozone: It causes constriction of the muscles in the airways, thereby trapping air in the alveoli. This, in turn, leads to wheezing and shortness of breath.

The effects of ozone include on healthy human body:

  1. Make it more difficult to breathe deeply and vigorously
  2. Cause shortness of breath and pain when taking a deep breath
  3. Cause coughing and sore or scratchy throat
  4. Inflame and damage the airways
  5. Aggravate lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis
  6. Increase the frequency of asthma attacks
  7. Make the lungs more susceptible to infection
  8. Continue to damage the lungs even when the symptoms have disappeared
  9. Cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

They may lead to increased school absences, medication use, visits to doctors and emergency rooms, and hospital admissions.

Long term exposure may lead to aggravation of asthma, permanent lung damage and abnormal lung development in children.

Ozone and premature death

Breathing ozone can shorten your life. Strong evidence exists of the deadly impact of ozone from large studies conducted in cities across the U.S., Europe and Asia. Researchers repeatedly found that the risk of premature death increased with higher levels of ozone. Newer research has confirmed that ozone worsened the risk of premature death even when other pollutants also exist.2

Even low levels of ozone may be deadly. A large study of 48 U.S. cities looked at the association between ozone and mortality during the summer months. Ozone concentrations by city in the summer months ranged from 16 percent to 80 percent lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently considers safe. Researchers found that ozone at those lower levels was associated with deaths from cardiovascular disease, strokes, and respiratory causes.3

A French study found that exposure to elevated ozone levels for one to two days increased the risk of heart attacks for middle-aged adults without heart disease.4 In a 2017 scientific paper, researchers further added evidence to a nationwide study that older adults faced a higher risk of premature death even when levels of ozone pollution remained well below the current national standard.5

Final Words

If the air is contaminated with ozone, it means that everyone within such perimeters is at risk. But then, there are a number of steps you can take to avert exposure to such risks. First and foremost, you should avoid spending long hours outdoors on high-long ozone days. Also, you should conserve your energy by limiting your driving. Well, that’s not all; contribute your bit towards improving your environment. Besides, you must adapt to positive lifestyle changes for a richer life like gassing up your car in the mornings or evenings. More importantly, you should be able to use air quality index (AQI) to plan your day. When you do all this and more, you will definitely live a much healthier life.


  1. Bell ML, McDermott A, Zeger SL, Samet JM, Dominici F. Ozone and short-term mortality in 95 US urban communities, 1987-2000. JAMA. 2004; 292:2372-2378.
  2. Zanobetti A, Schwartz J. Mortality displacement in the association of ozone with mortality: an analysis of 48 cities in the United States. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2008; 177:184-189;
  3. Zanobetti and Schwartz. 2008.
  4. Ruidavets J-B, Cournot M, Cassadou S, Giroux M, Meybeck M, Ferrières J. Ozone Air Pollution is Associated with Acute Myocardial Infarction. Circulation. 2005; 111:563-569.
  5. Di Q, Dai L, Wang Y, Zanobetti A, Choirat C, Schwartz JD, Dominici F. Association of Short-Term Exposure to Air Pollution with Mortality in Older Adults. JAMA. 2017; 318: 2446-2456.

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