MADISON, Wis. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Every summer, a combination of heat, car exhaust and other chemicals cooks up into a big pollution problem called ozone. Forty-five percent of the U.S. population now lives in areas that exceed the health standard limit for ozone. But now, researchers have made an important discovery -- some of that air pollution is actually coming from the other side of the ocean.
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For graduate student Claus Moberg, ozone is more than a topic for his environmental studies research; it’s a health issue.
“I’m asthmatic so high ozone levels exacerbate my asthma, make it harder for me to breathe, and that makes it harder for me to ride my bike,” Moberg told Ivanhoe.
Ozone is a summertime pollution problem for most major U.S. cities. Now, researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison have documented how much of our ozone problem actually comes from across the Pacific Ocean.
“Just like the Eastern U.S. is affected by power plants in the Midwest, so the United States is affected by upwind emissions coming from Asia and Europe,” Tracey Holloway, Ph.D., Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at University of Wisconsin, Madison, told Ivanhoe.
Dr. Holloway’s research indicates about 12-percent of the pollution in the Western United States comes from emissions in Asia and Europe. In the eastern US, up to 10-percent of air pollution comes from those areas.
Dr. Holloway’s mathematical models incorporate atmospheric science as well as chemistry and engineering to calculate ozone emissions and how they travel. She says pollution from Europe and Asia has the biggest U.S. impact in the spring and fall, and that could be important information for policymakers trying to clear the air.
“So if you’re trying to figure out what policies you should design to meet a particular ozone standard, you want to know how much you can control and how much you can’t control,” Dr. Holloway said.
Researchers say understanding worldwide pollution issues could lead to a broader approach to the problem, here and abroad.
The American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, INFORMS, the American Mathematical Society, and the Mathematical Association of America contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.