Just in time for the traditional start of ozone season, Gov. John Bel Edwards declared May as “Air Quality Awareness Month” in the state, according to a news release from the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Ozone pollution has long been a concern in the Baton Rouge metro area, although in recent years the region has met and then remet ever strengthening federal standards.

Ozone is not something that is released directly into the air. Instead, it is a pollution, commonly known as smog, that forms when volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides from cars, industry and other sources are released into the air. Sunlight helps these two groups of pollution go through a chemical reaction that produces ozone. On windless days, ozone can build up and cause breathing and other health problems, particularly for vulnerable populations like children or people with lung illnesses.

A more stringent federal ozone standard was announced last year and the state Department of Environmental Quality has until October to submit a list of parishes that don’t meet the new standard.

As May begins, the state is asking people to get familiar with the Air Quality Index and to help with voluntary actions that can prevent ozone formation.

DEQ recommends a number of things that people can do, in addition to those actions taken by industry, to help reduce ozone. These kind of efforts include carpooling, refueling vehicles and using lawn mowers after 6 p.m., combining errands so there is less driving required and not idling a vehicle for an extended period of time.

Current air quality information is available online at http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/programs/air.aspx and air quality information can be sent automatically by subscribing to EnviroFlash at www.deq.louisiana.gov/ enviroflash.