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October 9, 2012
By Mike Wolterbeek
A conference on atmospheric ozone, a highly reactive form of oxygen that can cause health and environmental problems, is being hosted by the Western States Air Resources Council (WESTAR) and the University of Nevada, Reno. The conference, which begins Wednesday, will address current policy issues and increase understanding of the science regarding concentrations, sources and transport in the western United States.
"We've had a lot of interest in the conference and because of this, decided to move from campus to the Silver Legacy to accommodate the turnout," Mae Gustin, University of Nevada, Reno professor and co-organizer of the conference, said. "Presentations will be given by people from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding policy and by those applying new methods for understanding sources of ozone to Nevada and the West."
The three-day meeting will explore how science can help inform state and federal regulatory agency decision making for interstate transport assessment requirements and planning in geographic areas that may not meet Clean Air Act requirements. These regulatory challenges are complicated by uncertainties with respect to contributions of ozone, and ozone forming gases, from natural and human-based sources emitted from local, regional and international sources.
Ozone interacts with nearly all surfaces that it contacts and can cause damage to human lung tissue, crops and natural vegetation. Ozone and the chemicals that form ozone may be transported over great distances, impacting areas far removed from pollutant sources. Ozone is also a greenhouse gas and, like carbon dioxide, could contribute to global warming.
WESTAR participants, from nine western states, will examine current scientific efforts to understand background ozone concentrations, as well as the potential for ozone transport from outside of a state to contribute to measured values. This information is important for making decisions needed by state air quality agencies to meet Clean Air Act requirements, especially in light of proposed requirements for a lower federal ozone standard in 2013.
This conference is intended for state air quality agency science and regulatory staff, and scientists, working on atmospheric ozone.
"We could have gases moving through the atmosphere from as far away as Asia affecting human and ecosystem health in Nevada," Gustin said. "This conference is an important gathering that will allow scientists making measurements to inform others and keep the science moving towards greater understanding and solutions."
Presenters include scientists and ozone experts from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, University of California,Davis, Columbia University, Princeton University, EPA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington State University, University of Washington, University of Nevada, Reno and the Colorado Department of Health.