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What is ozone?

blue skyDon't be fooled just because you can't see smog. Greater Kansas City's air can be unhealthy.

Our atmosphere is made up of two kinds of ozone:

  • Good: the ozone layer high above the Earth protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
  • Bad: ground-level ozone, also known as ozone pollution or smog


Contributing factors

Dangerous air is not created solely by industry. Although it’s true that coal-burning industrial plants and chemical plants contribute to the problem, more than half of all ozone pollution is caused by everyday people doing everyday things.

Ground-level ozone

Ozone pollution is more than a dirty-looking cloud on the horizon. It forms when emissions from vehicles, lawn mowers, power plants and industry react with heat and sunlight. Ozone pollution is harmful for everyone, especially to people with respiratory problems such as asthma.

Children are also at high risk when the ozone level reaches "Alert" status. Ground-level ozone makes it difficult for your lungs to absorb oxygen, making you cough.

What time of day you fill your car, how often you drive your car for errands, and when you mow your lawn all impact air quality.

Setting limits

For health reasons, the Environmental Protection Agency places limits on how much ground-level ozone our air can contain. In October 2015, the EPA changed the national ground-level ozone standards to better protect public health.

Monitoring ozone

There are ozone monitors across our region that measure exactly how much ozone pollution our air contains. There are three ways to access up-to-date information about how much ozone is in our air:

  • SkyCast: shows the next day's predicted ozone pollution concentrations.
  • Air Quality Index: shows current and yesterday's ozone pollution concentrations.
  • Ozone summaries: detailed reports reviewing data from ozone monitors across the region since the beginning of ozone season (April 1).