In early December, the Department of Environmental Quality released their annual report. Much of the report focused on air quality-- in particular, ozone.
"It’s the saying ozone’s good up high, bad nearby," says Vivian Aucoin, senior staff scientist at DEQ.
In the stratosphere, the ozone layer protects us from the sun’s UV rays. But down here, ozone can be a lung irritant.
Aucoin says the Baton Rouge area is still designated as nonattainment by EPA, which means that Baton Rouge’s ozone levels are higher than what the EPA deems safe.
"Although our monitors have been reading attainment of the standards since December 31, 2013. Because once you’re in nonattainment, you always have that moniker," she adds.
Ozone is formed, not emitted, when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, like car exhaust, react in the presence of sunlight.
Aucoin says there are several things individuals can do to reduce ozone-forming emissions. "My biggest soapbox is don’t go through the drive in lines, because the whole time you’re waiting in line the car’s producing emissions."
Baton Rouge’s air quality is actually the best it’s ever been, according to Aucoin. But there’s still more work to be done. Greg Langley is DEQ’s press secretary. He says the annual report is an important way to engage with the community and get a little bit of help.
"We do a lot of outreach to get the public involved to help us, because there’s not enough of us to take care of all the problems, we need a little help. And the law is not enough. We have to go above and beyond to get Louisiana’s environment as clean as we want it. And we want it as clean as it possibly can be."