Ozone (O3)

Contact: Air Quality Related Issues: Robert Irvine, 517-284-6749
Agency: Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

(If you're looking for information specifically about ozone nonattainment workgroups, studies and planning, check out the Ozone Nonattainment page!)

Ozone is an air pollutant formed from the mixing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the air. Things like gasoline, paints, and cleaning products can evaporate easily into the air and contain VOCs. NOx is created when fuel is burned. On warm sunny days, ozone is formed when VOCs and NOx in the air meet and react with each other.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why is some ozone good for us and some is harmful?

The Ozone layer is the upper atmosphere helps protect the earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Ground-level ozone is unhealthy to breathe. It can narrow a person's airways and lungs to work harder to provide oxygen to the body. Individuals most susceptible to the effects of ozone exposure include individuals with a pre-existing or chronic respiratory disease, children, and adults who actively exercise or work outdoors.

At what level is ozone unhealthy?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) set air quality standards based on the latest health studies. The standards are set to protect the public against adverse health effects. In 2015, the USEPA lowered the standard from 75 to 70 parts per billion (ppb).

What effects can be caused by high ground-level ozone?

Exposure to high concentrations of ozone can include the following effects:

  • eye irritation
  • difficulty in breathing / shortness of breath
  • aggravated / prolonged coughing and chest pain
  • increased aggravation of asthma
  • increased susceptibility to respiratory infection resulting in increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits
  • Repeated exposures could result in chronic inflammation and irreversible structural changes in the lungs, which can lead to premature aging of the lungs and illness such as bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Growing evidence suggests association with premature death.
  • Ozone may also impact vegetation such as agricultural crop and forest yield reductions, leaf injury, diminished resistance to pests and disease, reduced tree seedling survival and decreased numbers in species sensitive to ozone.

How can I find out about ozone levels near me?

Areas of the state not meeting the 2015 USEPA standard for ozone are said to be in nonattainment. See nonattainment areas on the map below. The best way to find out about current ozone levels near you is to check out our Ozone Action! in Michigan interactive map which shows ozone levels in near real time. You can also sign up to receive alerts telling you when ozone levels may be dangerous. You can easily sign up for Enviroflash Alerts and get information sent right to your phone or e-mail.

Other Resources