Breaking News
More () »

Who is at risk when ozone levels are high?

Dr. Diaz explained that ozone sticks to the wet part of the respiratory tract and forms an acid.

In Southeast Louisiana, higher levels of ozone don't affect visibility, as seen in Los Angeles smog, but breathing the colorless gas can cause health problems.

Some people Eyewitness News stopped as they were exercising in City Park, had not heard about the increase of ozone in the air we breath.

(Story continues under video)

"I have congestive heart failure and I did two miles today, so, and I really don't feel the difference in the quality of the air. And I'm doing great," said Roy Matthews.

"Now that you telling me about it, it's scary just to think about how many people have asthma," said Kristy Vurrell.

"Now that you say something, maybe I feel it," laughed Keara Linnear who was walking with Vurrell.

Dr. Jim Diaz, the Head of Environmental and Occupational Health at The LSU School of Public Health, says some people should be concerned.

"When we breath ozone, it basically burns the respiratory passages," he explained.

Most at risk are children and young adults.

"Because they breath with a faster rate than older adults," Dr. Diaz said, explaining that they take in more ozone.

He said those with asthma, should also be concerned about health risks.

"Breathing in high ozone contaminated air, could precipitate an asthmatic attack."

People with lung problems such as COPD, are at high risk of health problems as well.

"People who have those diagnoses, they should really be staying indoors during these ozone alerts," Dr. Diaz cautioned.

He also had a warning for people suffering with cardiovascular disease.

"The risk of heart attack can increase and the risk of sudden death can increase."

Levels are expected to stay elevated for a couple of days, so Dr. Diaz expects hospitals will see people with breathing concerns and asthma attacks. There may even be more infections, sore throats and pneumonia, from the irritation or from the ozone inhibiting the respiratory tract's ability to fight infections.

One woman walking in City Park knew about the alert and came prepared with extra water.

"I don't have any health issues, any asthma or anything, so I'm just going to take it slow and not be out here as long today ," said Kim Swan.

Dr. Diaz says Baton Rouge can be worse than New Orleans, when it comes to high ozone levels, because there is wind coming off of Lake Pontchartrain that helps move and clear the air. Baton Rouge, he said, tends to have more congested traffic, so more exhaust fumes.

Tuesday while Medical Reporter Meg Farris was outside doing this report, she said she did not feel the respiratory burning but when she returned to the newsroom, her eyes stayed irritated for a few hours. Dr. Diaz explained that ozone sticks to the wet part of the respiratory tract and forms an acid.

Before You Leave, Check This Out