65°F
weather icon Clear

Study knocks Las Vegas for ozone, but local officials cite improvement

Updated April 23, 2019 - 9:19 pm

Cough if you’ve heard this one before: The American Lung Association says Las Vegas has some of the highest ozone levels in the nation, but Clark County air quality officials insist the community is improving when it comes to the smog-causing pollutant.

So who’s got it right?

It looks like they both do.

Las Vegas ranked as the nation’s 13th worst city for ozone pollution in the lung association’s annual “State of the Air” report, released late Tuesday. The community experienced more days of high ozone than the previous year, according to the nationwide report, which is based on data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies.

“Las Vegas residents should be aware that we’re breathing unhealthy air, placing our health and lives at risk,” said JoAnna Strother, director of advocacy for the association in Nevada. “When older adults or children with asthma breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room. Ozone can even shorten life itself.”

But while the number of high ozone days jumped last year to its highest total since 2012, the valley still saw roughly half as many so-called “ozone exceedance days” as it did 15 years ago, according to figures from the Clark County Department of Air Quality.

“Auto emissions continue to improve, which helps lower ground-level ozone,” Mike Sword, the county air quality planning manager, said in a written statement. “The department of air quality also enforces strict compliance with federal, health-based standards on all permitted businesses in Clark County to ensure they are not emitting unhealthy amounts of pollutants into the air.”

Higher standards

Ozone is a colorless gas that exists naturally in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, but at ground level it is a key ingredient of urban smog that can build up during the day in the hottest months of the year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to ozone can irritate the respiratory system and cause coughing, sore throat, chest pain and shortness of breath even in healthy people.

In August 2018, the EPA changed its health-based standard for ground-level ozone from 75 to 70 parts per billion. An exceedance occurs when ozone levels rise above 70 ppb over eight hours in a day, something that happened in Las Vegas 35 times last year, up from 18 in 2017.

The new EPA standard certainly played a role in that increase, Sword said, but about half of the community’s ozone exceedances in 2018 can be traced to a spike in the amount of wildfire smoke that blew into Clark County.

The lung association’s “State of the Air” report, now in its 20th year, provides an annual asssesment of the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone and particles or soot.

This year’s report shows a decrease in year-round levels of particle pollution both in Las Vegas and nationwide, but Strother stressed that roughly four in 10 Americans are still “living with unhealthy air, and we’re heading in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting public health.”

For example, the report highlights increased ozone levels in most cities nationwide and warns that warmer temperatures brought on by climate change make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up.

Eight of the top 11 most ozone-polluted metropolitan areas are in California, with Los Angeles topping this year’s list — just as it has in 19 if the 20 years the report has been produced. The cleanest city for ozone pollution is Anchorage, Alaska.

Ozone season

Starting April 1, county air quality officials declared a seasonal ozone advisory for the Las Vegas Valley through Sept. 30.

Residents are encouraged to reduce their ozone output by driving and idling their vehicles less, sticking to public transportation when possible and filling up their gas tanks after dark.

Those with respiratory problems and other health issues are advised to limit outdoor activity, especially in the middle of the day when levels are at their worst, and stick to less strenuous exercise in the morning or evening.

In part due to the EPA’s new standard, Clark County is currently in “marginal” non-attainment status for ground-level ozone, the agency’s lowest classification.

“For the Department of Air Quality, this new, lower bar by the EPA simply means we have to limbo lower, which we will do,” Sword said. “We beat dust and we beat carbon monoxide. Now, we will beat ozone.”

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

SOTA 2019 Full Report by on Scribd

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST