Clearing the Air: The Fight Against Ground-Level Ozone Pollution in the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its stunning vistas, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural history. However, the park is facing a serious threat from ground-level ozone pollution. This pollution originates outside the park and travels to the Smokies on prevailing winds, putting both people and plants at risk.

Ground-level ozone is formed when pollutants from sources such as power plants, factories, and cars react with sunlight. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, these pollutants are transported into the park from surrounding areas, where they combine with naturally occurring emissions from trees and other plants to form high levels of ozone.

Exposure to high levels of ozone can cause a range of health problems, including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. In recent years, ozone exposures in the park have exceeded levels that threaten human health, making it important for visitors and park employees to take precautions to avoid these harmful effects.

In addition to its impact on human health, ground-level ozone pollution can also harm plants and wildlife in the park. Ozone can damage plant tissues, reduce growth rates, and make plants more vulnerable to disease and pests. This can have ripple effects throughout the ecosystem, impacting everything from pollinators to larger mammals.

To address these challenges, the National Park Service is working to reduce emissions of ozone-forming pollutants both within and outside of the park. This includes partnering with other agencies and organizations to promote cleaner air and reduce sources of pollution.

Nonprofit organizations such as the Friends of the Smokies are also working to protect the park from the impacts of ground-level ozone pollution. They provide funding and resources to support scientific research, education and public outreach efforts, and advocacy to ensure that the park remains a healthy and vibrant part of our natural heritage.

In conclusion, ground-level ozone pollution is a serious threat to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its visitors. Through education, advocacy, and action to reduce emissions, we can help protect this treasured resource for generations to come.