COLUMBUS OH (04/28/2010)(readMedia)– People in Ohio are breathing dangerous levels of particle pollution and ozone although the levels of pollutants have improved over previous years, according to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2010 report, which gave many Ohio counties improving grades for the most widespread outdoor pollutants that threaten the lives and health of Americans. Unfortunately, Cincinnati, Weirton, Steubenville, Marietta, and the Cleveland-Akron-Elyria area all ranked in the 25 most polluted U.S. cities for year-round particle pollution in the report. Cincinnati also ranked in the 25 most ozone-polluted cities. On the other hand, Ohio did have one county that made the list of cleanest counties for short-term particle pollution-Medina County. Below are the counties whose grades changed in this year’s report. Most counties whose grades did not change also saw improvement in their air pollution, just not sufficient enough to improve their grade.
|High Particle Pollution Grade||High Ozone Grade|
Nationally, the report finds that a decade of cleanup measures to reduce emissions from coal-fired powered plants and the transition to cleaner diesel fuels and engines have paid off in cutting levels of particle and ozone pollution, especially in eastern and midwestern U.S. cities. Despite that progress, more than half the population of the U.S. still suffers pollution levels that are too often dangerous to breathe, and some cities had air that was more polluted than in the previous report.
"State of the Air 2010 proves with hard data that cleaning up air pollution produces healthier air," said Shelly Kiser, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio. "We need to put that message to work so that policies that can protect Ohio’s residents from particle pollution are put into effect. We need greater regulation of devices that cause pollution like outdoor wood-fired boilers and state funding to install equipment to clean up the dirty diesel vehicles currently on the road polluting Ohio’s cities every day."
The improvement of grades on this year’s report highlights the success of Ohio’s Diesel Emission Reduction Grant Program which reduces air pollution from diesel engines by replacement and emission controls. The grant program has been successful in helping clean up both particle pollution and the chemicals causing ozone that are emitted by trains, buses, trucks and construction equipment, all while saving Ohio jobs. But, the program funding has been cut in half. We call on the legislator to fund the Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant Program at $50 million per year to maintain and improve upon the excellent progress Ohio has made in keeping the air clean.
In addition, the Ohio EPA is considering regulations for outdoor wood-fired boilers, devices emitting large amounts of particle pollution. Unfortunately, the proposed regulations are weak and would not protect health or the environment. The installation of these devices is growing by up to 50% annually, and they will continue to contribute to Ohio’s particle pollution problem without meaningful regulation.
The State of the Air report, found at http://www.stateoftheair.org, provides an annual national air quality "report card," based on the color-coded Air Quality Index, to assign grades to counties. The 2010 report-the 11th annual release-uses the most recent quality-assured air pollution data, collected in 2006, 2007 and 2008. These data come from official monitors for the two most widespread types of pollution: ozone-or smog- and particle pollution-or soot. Particle pollution data are graded according to both year-round and short-term levels. The report ranks cities and counties based on their scores.
Particle pollution-called fine particulate matter or PM 2.5-is a combination of tiny specks of soot, dust, and aerosols that are suspended in the air. More than 8 million people in Ohio are at risk for serious health problems due to dangerous levels of particle pollution. Spikes in short-term levels of particle pollution can last anywhere from hours to days. High year-round particle pollution creates unhealthy levels day-in and day-out. "People with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults are the most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure," said Ms. Kiser. "Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing. It also causes irregular heartbeat, heart attacks and even premature death in people with heart or lung disease."
Ground-level ozone forms when nitrogen oxide gases and volatile organic compounds (carbon-containing chemicals that evaporate easily into the air, like gasoline vapors) from vehicle and industrial emissions react in the sunlight and heat. Breathing ozone irritates your lungs, leaving them with something like a bad sunburn and can cause health problems the day you breathe it in and even days after. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and even shorten your life.
The EPA is currently considering tighter limits on ozone; those limits, called ambient air quality standards, drive the work that communities do to clean up ozone and other pollutants. The American Lung Association has called on the EPA to set standards that provide much greater protection for public health. "Reducing ozone to healthy levels and protecting all from this potentially deadly air pollutant requires individual action, tough state regulations and much stronger federal standards," Ms. Kiser explained. "America still has a long way to go before all of us are breathing healthy air. We won’t settle for less."
The American Lung Association in Ohio is urging Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator George Voinovich to vote in support of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010, which will cut emissions from coal-fired power plants that create particle pollution and ozone. "We also are calling on Congress to ensure that only clean diesel equipment is used in federally-funded construction projects, and to provide funds for the cleanup of existing diesel engines," said Ms. Kiser. "The EPA needs to finish measures to clean up power plants and ocean-going vessels, strengthen national standards for outdoor air pollutants-especially ozone and particle pollution-and set tough new standards to require the cleanup of nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons and particle emissions from cars."
Individuals can take personal steps every day to improve air quality immediately and ultimately impact climate change. Drive less. Don’t burn wood or trash. Use less electricity, and make sure your local school system requires clean school buses.
Visit http://www.lungusa.org to search local air quality grades by zip code and to send messages to Congress and the Obama Administration to urge action to protect the air we breathe.
Editors’ Note: Multimedia toolkit including broadcast quality b-roll and photographs are available at http://www.stateoftheair.com. County grades are available at http://www.stateoftheair.org.