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What does an ozone alert mean for Kansas City? What to know about air quality this week

Jun 06, 2023Jun 06, 2023

Kansas City's under an ozone alert, meaning there's a higher amount of pollution in the air than usual, which can be harmful to people with respiratory issues.

The alert includes Leavenworth, Wyandotte and Johnson Counties in Kansas, as well as Clay, Platte and Jackson counties in Missouri, according to the National Weather Service.

What does that actually mean? Here's what we learned from the Mid-America Regional Council, who issues the alerts.

According to the NWS, the ozone layer reaches a point that conditions might be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children and those with asthma. The ozone may become unhealthy because of the pollutants emitted by cars, chemical plants or other sources that react with sunlight.

Once it reaches that point, MARC will issue an alert to help people stay safe.

Karen Clawson, the air quality program manager with MARC, recommended that people — especially people with respiratory conditions — reduce or reschedule plans for any heavy activities outdoors, like going on a run or playing soccer with friends.

Clawson said that staying in a well-ventilated and air-conditioned building is best. If you have to be outside, it should be before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m., according to the alert.

Clawson said MARC works with a meteorologist who pays attention to the weather patterns not only in Kansas City, but across the country. Sometimes the wind from other places, such as Chicago, carries pollution to Kansas City.

The meteorologist first identifies the air's movement patterns that could affect the city's air quality. The air pattern now shows that not much air is moving freely on the surface. If the air isn't moving, that means the emissions are hanging around for an extended period.

The meteorologist then lets MARC know if air quality conditions are unhealthy. Clawson said this is the second alert issued in Kansas City this year.

During the alert, Clawson said that people in the metro should try to use other forms of transportation, such as biking or riding the bus rather than driving their own car.

Clawson also said people should wait to refuel vehicles, delay mowing and other yard work that uses power equipment until the evening.

Why? Because lawnmowers and cars emit pollution into the air, making the air quality worse