A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Division of Air Quality’s special camera allows Kentuckians to ‘see’ invisible health hazards

You can’t see them with the naked eye, but Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) might be present in our everyday lives when filling our gas tanks, painting and mowing the yard or even putting burgers on the grill. Those VOCs, when mixed with nitrogen oxide and sunshine, create ground-level ozone.

And while we need ozone in our upper atmosphere to protect us from the sun’s harmful rays, down on the ground, it’s a human health hazard.

“In Kentucky, ground-level ozone is mostly a summertime pollutant,” said Roberta Burnes, Policy Analyst III at the Kentucky Division of Air Quality (DAQ). “It’s created by chemical reactions mainly between VOCs and nitrogen oxides on hot, sunny days.”

To cut down on harmful VOCs, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division for Air Quality recommends that you complete some everyday tasks such as painting, lawn mowing and grilling during the cooler times of the day during the summer months.

In a dramatic demonstration, the DAQ has used its Forward Looking Infrared Camera – or FLIR (pronounced “fleer”) – to show these invisible VOCs that are released by spray paint, paint thinners, gasoline and other items. The video also explains why VOCs are harmful to our health.

“It is easy for each of us to help make a difference,” said Burnes. “Refuel your car after 6 P.M., mow as late in the day as possible, look for low VOC paints and replace the caps to paint thinners as soon as you can.”

From Energy and Environment Cabinet

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