The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2013” report finds that in America’s most polluted cities and counties, including those in Delaware, air quality was at its cleanest since the organization’s annual report began 13 years ago. However, factors such as cross-state pollution played a role ultimately in poor air quality grades assigned to the First State.
Delaware received mixed grades for ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot). However, Kent and Sussex counties made the list of the nation’s cleanest counties for daily particle pollution, earning “A’s” with no unhealthy days during 2009-2011, the report’s years of measurement, for the second consecutive year. The Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland metropolitan area (which includes New Castle County) again ranked this year among the 25 most polluted for ozone and for year-round particle pollution. In ozone and in daily particle pollution, it was the Philadelphia metro area’s cleanest air quality showing since the first “State of the Air” report. In annual particle pollution, the city of Philadelphia’s slightly improved maximum pollution levels were enough to move the entire metro area into 11th place on the top 25 list, slightly better than last year’s 10th place ranking.
New Castle and Sussex counties continued to receive “Fs” for ozone pollution, while Kent County improved to a passing grade (a “D”) for the first time under the current standard. In Kent County, “State of the Air 2013” ranked Dover on the list of “Cleanest U.S. Cities for Short-term Particle Pollution.”
In addition to Kent and Sussex counties’ “A” grades for short-term particle pollution, New Castle County received its first passing grade ever (a “D”) for this pollutant. Furthermore, not only did all three counties receive a “Pass” for year-round particle pollution, but they also showed improvement in their absolute levels, already attaining the most stringent health-based standard endorsed by the American Lung Association.
Ozone (smog) is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. When ozone is inhaled, it irritates the lungs, like a bad sunburn. It can cause immediate health problems that continue days later. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death.
Although air quality improvements clearly result from standards put into place under the Clean Air Act, big polluters and some members of Congress continue to propose to dismantle the law. Recent proposals in Congress have included delaying implementation and blocking enforcement of parts of the law, and limiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to consider all of the scientific evidence regarding the harm to public health. These challenges come despite the EPA’s estimate that cutting air pollution through the Clean Air Act will prevent at least 230,000 deaths and save $2 trillion annually by 2020.
“State of the Air 2013” grades cities and counties based, in part, on the color-coded Air Quality Index developed by the EPA to alert the public to daily unhealthy air conditions. The 14th annual report uses the most recent, quality-controlled EPA data collected from 2009 through 2011 from official monitors for ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread types of air pollution. Counties are graded for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels. The report also uses the EPA’s calculations for year-round particle levels.
Return to: WGMD Local News Blog