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Too Much Ozone 19 May 2004

Air quality monitoring data issued by the Department of Local Government and the Environment shows that the Islandís air quality during 2002 and 2003 generally met established standards.

However, the standards for ozone were exceeded at the Quarterbridge, Douglas, Monitoring Station in 2002; and, in 2003 in respect of ozone and particulates at Quarterbridge and also ozone at the Richmond Hill Monitoring Station.

The Department has been monitoring ambient air quality within a rural and urban location on the Island since 1997. The monitoring stations located at Richmond Hill and Quarterbridge provide an indication of local air quality. Concentrations of air pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulates are compared to health based air quality standards.

The Air Quality Standards used in the Isle of Man have been adopted from the UK Air Quality Objectives set out in the UK Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island.

Ozone can be dangerous for children, old people and asthmatics, and elevated levels of ozone in 2002 and 2003 are unlikely to be attributable to one particular source.

Jeff Smith of the Departmentís Environmental Protection Unit explained:

ďOzone exists naturally at low concentrations in the upper atmosphere where it absorbs UV radiation. It also exists in the lower atmosphere in extremely low concentrations where itís produced when strong sunlight breaks up the nitrogen oxides released by car exhausts and other combustion processes.

"It has trans-boundary implications and is an ongoing problem in the UK and Europe where ozone pollution in 2003 soared to the highest level in a decade. Latest research also suggests another factor in that plants and trees when short of water at temperatures above 35C produce increased levels of isoprene that helps protect their leaves from damage. In turn this isoprene gets in the air and acts as a catalyst driving the rate at which sunlight breaks down nitrogen oxide and turns it into ozone."

Ozone reacts with nitrogen oxide (NO) to form nitrogen dioxide that means that where thereís more available NO there is also likely to be a lower concentration of ozone, and this appears to be the case between the Richmond Hill and Quarterbridge Stations.

Also particulates smaller than 10 microns (PM10) are measured at both sites. The principal sources of PM10ís are traffic related, particularly from diesels, and can also be emitted from combustion processes and plants.

Particulate levels are highest in urban areas although the presence of sea salt in the atmosphere may also be a factor influencing particulates on-Island.

Again the transboundary nature of particulates is borne out by the apparent correlation of local Met Office information, including wind data and locally-measured pollutants, showing importation of pollution from the UK and often the Continent when we have a local east or south easterly wind and the general source of the airmass has been from the UK/Continent for a few days.

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