Smart phone app determines dangerous ozone levels - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Smart phone app determines dangerous ozone levels

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

The sun smiled down on our city Friday, a perfect start to what's expected to be a gorgeous springtime weekend. But weather as nice as this can sometimes include an unseen, not-so-nice effect.

Barry Lefer is an associate professor at the University of Houston's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

"Ozone is a strong lung irritant," Lefer said. " So when you breathe it in, it burns your lungs. So it's like getting a sunburn on your lungs and makes it difficult to breathe."

Researchers, like Lefer, have been monitoring ozone levels for decades, using machines to monitor air quality, and studying up on the science behind the main ingredient in smog.

Two years ago, Lefer teamed up with Dan Price, a research assistant professor at UH's Honor College, to create a smart phone app so user friendly, "non-scientific types" can get and most importantly understand the information they've spent years studying.

"You can program in things like your kids school," Price said. " Sometimes being under a tree cover or being inside a bit longer, like when you're doing stretching exercise, things like that can make a difference."

The free app is available for the I Phone and Android. Ozone danger levels are color coded. Users can plug in a specific address or location, select a date and even pick a time, right down to within a few minutes.

The state of Texas has a monitoring map, but as Lefer's wife found out, it runs an hour behind.

"Basically she found out after she went out for a run that she shouldn't have gone. The levels were high so it's basically putting out old information."

It took 2 years, a 450 thousand dollar grant, a partnership with Air Alliance Houston, the American Lung Association, and help from a computer programming professor and graduate student to get the apps up and running.

"So when I started (graduate) school, the internet wasn't (around)," Lefer said.

"There wasn't even email."

The mobile app can be found at www.houstoncleanairnetwork.com.

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