Even Mountain Air Has Ozone Pollution, Research Says

Aug 29, 2014 10:07 AM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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Hoping for some clean mountain air? It might not be found at the Front Range in northern Colorado, according to new research into the area's pollution levels.

Scientists, who have emphasized that the research is in its very early stages, tapped aircraft, balloons and ground stations for data to gauge ozone levels.

As air flows from lower urban and rural areas, mountain air is becoming more and more polluted with ozone and ozone-inducing chemicals, the Associated Press reported.

"People (are) thinking you go into the mountains and you breathe the fresh air--that's not always the case," said lead researcher Gabriele Pfister, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

"Really, all the way up to the Continental Divide you can find ozone," said Pfister, as quoted by the AP.

The mountains see some ozone levels that are close to or even greater than levels found at lower elevation, according to fellow NCAR scientist and researcher Frank Flocke.

Ozone has been discovered in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is around 60 miles northwest of Denver.

"We view Rocky Mountain National Park as a refuge, and to learn there are days when it's not as safe as we think of it as, it's something people should know," said James Crawford of NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., as quoted by the AP.

A research scientist at the NASA facility, Crawford served as the lead investigator on the space agency's part of the ozone-measuring project.

Still in initial stages, the research should be available as public data by the end of this year, backed by federal and state scientists and researchers from 12 universities who are assisting with the project.

"I think it is a little bit overwhelming in a way, in a good way," said Pfister.

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