Heat Waves and Ozone: How Are They Connected?

heat wave

As we near the middle of June, the Midwestern United States is in for its first major heat wave of the year. Temperatures in the next week may be as high as the upper 90s. Though we all know that heat exhaustion and dehydration are very real dangers of such hot weather, there’s another much less known danger in such extreme temperatures. A heat wave can bring with it increased levels of ozone, an airborne molecule that can aggravate asthma and cause respiratory damage. Here’s a little bit about ozone and how you can protect yourself in the hot weather to come.


  What is Ozone and Why Does it Rise With Heat Waves?


In the air we breathe everyday, oxygen atoms are bonded together into molecules made up of two oxygen atoms. Under some conditions, however, three oxygen atoms can bond together, producing ozone. This actually happens all the time, and all air has some ozone in it. Much like carbon dioxide, though, harmful ozone is usually filtered out by plants. During periods of extreme heat, however, the ability of plants to remove ozone decreases, leading to higher levels of it in the air.


As mundane as this all sounds, it can be very serious. In fact, a study conducted in 2013 compiled medical data from the United Kingdom collected during the summer of 2006 and found that ozone was a major contributing factor in no less than 460 documented deaths. Multiple studies have shown that high ozone levels can lead to increased mortality rates, making it all the more important to protect yourself from this dangerous compound.


How to Protect Yourself From Ozone


Of course, since ozone is invisible and airborne, there is no perfect way to protect against it. There are, however, some basic steps you can take to limit your exposure. The first and most effective way to do this is to avoid being outside any more than absolutely necessary during the heat of the day. This is especially important if you run or exercise outside, as doing so during the hottest hours greatly increases the amount of ozone you could potentially be inhaling. You can also close your house during the warm hours and use a whole-house fan or internal HVAC system to circulate air without bringing in ozone-laden outside air. Doing this will keep your house comfortable without the need to let in air that is very likely much higher in ozone levels.




Though ozone is always present, it’s important to take any steps you can to protect yourself from the elevated levels that can occur during a heat wave. If you want to take further steps to improve the overall air quality in your home, why not try out a high quality air purifiers to remove contaminants and make the air you breathe as clean and healthy as possible? If you have questions, we’re here to help. Feel free to contact us with any questions, and we’ll answer them for you as quickly as possible.