Ozone Season, “VOCs”, and One Amazing Camera (video below!)

Depending on where it is, ozone can be either good or bad for human health. When it is high in Earth’s atmosphere, ozone protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. When it is at ground-level where we live and breathe, ozone is a harmful pollutant that irritates your eyes, nose, and lungs.  In other words, ozone is good up high, but bad nearby.

In Kentucky, ground-level ozone is mostly a summertime pollutant.  It’s created by chemical reactions between other air pollutants on hot, sunny days.  The main ingredients of ground-level ozone are nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

Nitrogen oxides are created whenever you burn something. VOCs are emitted from a variety of sources, from industrial sources to products we use every day such as gasoline, certain paints and solvents.

Your eyes can’t see VOCs, but a special camera can.  The Forward Looking Infrared camera – or FLIR (pronounced “fleer”) – is a uniquely sensitive camera that detects VOCs. The Division for Air Quality uses the FLIR as a compliance tool to help facilities detect leaks, but it’s also capable of revealing VOCs emitted from everyday activities such as refueling and painting.

Watch this amazing video to see the FLIR in action and learn more about VOCs and ozone season.

Courtesy of Roberta Burnes, Policy Analyst III, and all the dedicated folks at Kentucky Division of Air Quality