The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District announced Thursday that levels of ground-level ozone, a principal component of smog, recorded on Wednesday at county monitoring stations exceeded state and federal health standards.

The federal eight-hour ozone standard was exceeded at stations in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, El Capitan and Las Flores Canyon (on the Gaviota Coast). In addition, ozone levels at these stations exceeded the state eight-hour ozone standard, which was also exceeded at stations in Goleta, Lompoc, Nojoqui and Paradise Road.

“Ozone forms much more rapidly in hot weather, and disperses slowly when breezes are light or still. We can consider this the beginning of our 2011 smog season,” said Terry Dressler, director of the Air Pollution Control District. “Ozone levels are typically highest in late afternoon and early evening.”

These levels of ozone are considered unhealthful for sensitive groups, including children, older adults and people with heart or lung conditions. Everyone, and especially sensitive individuals, should limit outdoor activities and avoid outdoor exercise during periods when air quality is impacted.

Click here to view ozone levels updated hourly.

— Mary Byrd is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District.