Ozone pollution is a form of pollution which is characterized by high concentrations of ozone, a form of oxygen, at ground level. Exposure to ozone can cause serious health problems in plants and people, and ozone pollution is a major problem in some regions of the world. It tends to increase during periods of high temperatures and sunny skies, which is why bad air advisories are often issued on seemingly nice days.
Ozone contains three atoms of oxygen, and it is a highly unstable and poisonous gas. In the upper reaches of the Earth's atmosphere, however, it is highly beneficial, since it appears to filter the ultraviolet light from the Sun, making the Earth more pleasant to live on. Holes in the ozone layer caused by chemical pollution have been a cause of concern for scientists who worry that depletion of the ozone layer could lead to serious problems for people. At ground level, however, ozone is bad news, because it is highly corrosive, and it can damage the respiratory tract when inhaled and injure the vascular systems of plants, causing damage or death.
For children, ozone pollution is especially dangerous, because they spend more time outdoors than adults, and they engage in more strenuous activities. As a result, children are exposed to more ozone than adults, and this is especially true of minorities, who often live in crowded urban areas where ozone pollution is widespread and very common. Damage caused to the developing body of a child by ozone can happen much faster than damage to an adult, leading to serious respiratory problems.
This gas forms when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxide gases (NOx) experience chemical reactions. These reactions are triggered by exposure to sunlight and high temperatures, and when ozone forms in large enough quantities, it becomes a component in photochemical smog. VOCs and NOx are emitted by cars, factories, and numerous other human sources, and ozone pollution may start in urban areas with a high concentration of human activity, but it can spread across vast distances.
Air pollution does not just lead to ozone pollution. It also contributes to acid rain when pollutants like VOCs combine with water, causing acids to form. Therefore, regions which experience high rates of ozone pollution in the summer months can experience acid rain in the rainy season, contributing to year round environmental degradation. Because air pollution doesn't stop at international borders, neighboring nations with differing approaches to pollution regulation and control can come into conflict as pollution spreads from one to the other.