With recent talk about climate change people are slowly forgetting about ozone problem that was not so long rated one of the biggest ecological problems. But ozone problem hasn't gone, in fact latest research in UK showed that ozone levels which not only contributes to global warming but is also a cause of hundreds of deaths a year from different respiratory illnesses - are both rising at an alarming rate.
Ozone is worst kind of air pollution produced by the impact of sunlight on different atmospheric pollutants, especially car exhausts. Ozone problem is especially expressed during hot summers, in areas polluted with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) mostly emitted by vehicles that produce peak levels of ozone. There is difference between ozone in the stratosphere, which protects Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation unlike the dangerous ozone in the lower atmosphere that is harmful to humans, animals and plants.
EU has already introduced some measures that should reduce that should help reduce these pollutants, most notably three-way converters that are fitted to cars. This has significantly help reducing ozone production in Europe but big countries like India, China and Russia are still emitting heavily, and ozone produced from these nations is constantly being blown over UK. In 2003 ozone caused more than 1,500 deaths in the UK - especially among children and elderly citizens- and that figure is set to rise to alarming 2,400 a year by 2020.
Not only human health is directly affected by ozone but there is also a serious negative impact on plants because once ozone enters plants through respiratory pores in their leaves it has negative effect on their ability to photosynthesise foodstuffs, resulting in weak and undersized plants, which is of course extremely damaging to crops. For instance some estimates say that in year 2000, ozone caused £5bn damage to crops in Europe.
Ozone's negative impact on global warming is known for some years now as ozone helps raise the temperature of the atmosphere and what is even worse it reduces the planet's ability to cope with other greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. So what to do with the ozone problem? The only successful action would be some sort of an international agreement that would include major emitting countries because local actions are not enough because weather systems and jet streams transport ozone to many countries worldwide. However there is still no sign of some international agreement, nor any significant efforts that should lead to this sort of agreement.