Do you know the difference between UV index and air quality?

DENVER (KDVR) — This summer, Colorado has seen ozone action days, air quality alert days and high UV indexes.

Each of those are measurements of our atmosphere, but do you know what they mean?

It all has to do with the quality of the air we are breathing.

UV Index

“Essentially, when we’re talking about the UV index, that’s the harmful radiation, so that’s where you can get a sunburn and sunburn can just be the start of the problems,” FOX31 Pinpoint Weather meteorologist Liz McGiffin said.

Air Quality Index

“Simply put, it’s how clean or polluted our air is within a certain area,” McGiffin said.

Ozone Action Day

“Ozone action days here in Colorado essentially mean that our air quality is unhealthy or unhealthy for sensitive groups, so you probably want to limit your time outside,” McGiffin said.

What is ozone?

Ozone is three oxygen atoms joined together, and, depending on where you find it, can be classified as “good” or “bad,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

You may have heard of the ozone layer, which is a layer of ozone that sits in the stratosphere. The ozone layer is “good” ozone, because it protects everything on the surface from the sun’s radiation, according to the EPA.

However, when ozone is found in the troposphere — the surface layer of the atmosphere — it is “bad” ozone.

“Bad” ozone is a harmful air pollutant and the main ingredient in smog, according to the EPA.

Ozone isn’t directly emitted. It is instead created when pollutants from sources including cars, power plants and refineries react chemically to heat and sunlight.

Ozone can be harmful to breathe, especially for people with conditions such as asthma.

According to the EPA, depending on the level of exposure, ozone can cause coughing, make it more difficult to breathe deeply, inflame and damage airways and increase the frequency of asthma attacks.

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