Ozone 'Chat Room' Provides Real-Time Air-Quality Research

Environmental scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a revolutionary Internet air pollution "chat room" that is helping to shape policy and provide a better understanding of how ozone, a nasty, unhealthy air pollutant, moves across the country.

Since spring 1996, Rudolf B. Husar, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering and director of Washington University's Center for Air Pollution Impact, Trends and Analysis (CAPITA), and Bret A. Schichtel, Ph.D., CAPITA research associate, have been key players in the air quality workgroup of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Ozone Transport Assessment Group (OTAG).

Instead of meeting in St. Louis or Washington, D.C., however, the air quality workgroup has a perpetual "virtual gathering" across the Internet. Through this real-time, interactive site, air-quality colleagues, comprising national air pollution experts, state air quality directors, industry representatives, environmental groups and EPA personnel, among others, have been able to make inferences about the regional nature of ozone and its long-range transport.

These findings better clarify the understanding of ozone and will affect regulations on industry and ultimately citizens. People in communities with unacceptable levels of ozone not only may suffer health effects from ozone pollution, but also may face government-imposed lifestyle changes, such as mandated car-pooling and other travel restrictions, limited or no outdoors barbecuing, and restricted hours to mow lawns and do other outdoor activities.

Summer Sizzle

The good old summer time is "Ozone Season." Ground-level ozone is a harmful pollutant that can cause health problems, especially for children, the elderly and people with respiratory conditions. A major contributor to smog, ozone is an irritating gas formed when hydrocarbons mix with nitrogen oxide in sunlight. Industrial and consumer activities, most involving comb

Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
Washington University in St. Louis

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