In 2018, the American Lung Association gave La Plata County, CO an “F” for ozone pollution.
Pollutants leaking from oil, gas and coal operations have been linked to ground level ozone; commonly know as “smog.”
Ozone is formed through interactions between volatile organic compounds (primarily from oil and gas), nitrogen oxides (primarily from coal), and sunlight.
Ozone is particularly prevalent above the San Juan Basin, as two massive coal-fired power plants release copious amounts of nitrogen oxides alongside the thousands of oil and gas wells spewing VOCs.
Exposure to ozone can cause or exacerbate respiratory health problems, including shortness of breath, asthma, chest pain and coughing, decreased lung function, long-term lung damage, and premature death.