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Ozone Action Days: What are they? What can you do to help?

Ozone Action Days: What are they? What can you do to help?
Ozone Action Days: What are they? What can you do to help? 02:15

(CBS DETROIT) - An air quality alert is in effect for Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties on Wednesday, May 31. 

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy declared an action day Wednesday for elevated ozone levels.

"It's a secondary pollutant – which means other pollutants that are directly emitted into the atmosphere come together photochemically to create ozone," Jim Haywood with EGLE's Air Quality Division told CBS News Detroit.

Experts say getting gas or using gas-powered equipment like lawnmowers can lead to higher ozone levels.

"Those are the exact fumes that need to come together to create that ozone molecule which would be that volatile organic compound, that stuff that you smell when you fill up your gas tank....and you smell those fumes that's a volatile organic compound," Haywood said.

Air quality alert issued for Metro Detroit -- Analyzing the impact 04:28

Nitrogen dioxide can also help lead to ozone molecules. The when you add in warm sunny weather, it can create a lung irritant.

"The pollutants that come out of a car – for example, they combine in the air when there is sunlight that's what causes ozone," said Matthew Adams, a professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

Adams says as the weather conditions change, ozone levels could drop. But if the levels continue to steadily rise, people with respiratory issues could be most affected.

"When you do have an ozone day, and if we keep adding those chemicals, we are going to see them more often which means we are going to see more people in the hospital."

Though the air quality alert is just a suggestion, EGLE says every little bit helps when keeping our environment healthy.

"Will it make a huge difference? Maybe not a huge difference, but sometimes we only just need a little bit of improvement to keep us in a good air category," Haywood said.

Residents in the area who suffer from respiratory issues are encouraged to limit their time outdoors. CBS News Detroit visited a gas station, and drivers say knowing that pumping gas can have effects on air quality brings concern.

"Of course you don't want to be the cause of someone feeling ill. It makes you rethink, you know, maybe it's time to think about getting an electric car," said Andre Sandifer.

A big way to combat the issue? Delaying errands until another time, when the pollution levels have decreased.

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