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Heat wave pushes Denver air quality to unhealthy levels

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DENVER (KDVR) — The blazing temperatures are front and center this week, as is concern for people outdoors, as the heat pushed air quality to unhealthy levels.

Air-quality levels here in Denver and other areas along the Front Range had reached unhealthy levels by Tuesday evening. Experts warned that trend could continue this week as temperatures spike.

“There’s a lot of chemicals in the atmosphere. Many of them we can’t even see, like ozone,” Pinpoint Meteorologist Chris Tomer said.

Tomer said we may see worse air quality as temperatures soar.

“Everything – the pollution, the smoke, the ozone – gets trapped right here where we live, and it gets sealed in. It’s like a pot you put on a stove. It’s like putting a lid on that pot, and everything down here gets trapped, and the heat, the convection – all of that,” Tomer said. “The 100 degrees just keeps things kind of swirling down here, and we breathe it in. We’ll rebreathe it, days and days out.”

To keeps things from getting out of hand, Denver’s air-quality experts with the Department of Public Health and Environment ask residents to do a few things during odd hours.

“If you are one that can tolerate the heat, and you do get outside, the afternoon ozone levels can be high,” said Gregg Thomas, environmental quality division director.

“Please don’t mow your lawn until after 5 in the evening, because the sun starts to get a little less active at that point, and you are just running out of time in the day to generate those chemical reactions that form ozone,” Thomas said.

“Also, things like fueling your gas tank,” Thomas said. “If you can, do it in the evening, because then you have a whole night for that pollution to disperse and not become part of that chemical reaction with sunlight.”

Experts also said it is a good idea to drive less right now to keep those emissions down.

They are reminding folks not to use fire pits and chimneys during this season. Not only is it illegal here during wildfire season in Denver, it can also cause issues for people with breathing problems.

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