By Sam Shawver, firstname.lastname@example.org
Times file photo
interstate signs and business signs near the I-77 interchange at Exit
1, traffic moves along busy Pike Street. Pollution from vehicles is one
of the reasons the area’s air got a grade of “F” in a new report.
County has received another failing grade in the subject of air
quality, according to the American Lung Association's "State of the Air
2007" report card released on Tuesday.
Fifteen out of 34 Ohio
counties tested showed decreases in the levels of ozone pollution,
improving their air quality report card grades from "F" to "D" or "C"
over last year. Lawrence County in southern Ohio made the greatest
stride, moving from an "F" to a "B."
But particle pollution,
from microscopic particles released by smokestacks and vehicle exhaust,
increased in eight counties, according to the 2007 report.
County's grade for particle pollution dropped from an “A” in 2006 to a
"D" in 2007, although during the same period Lorain’s ozone pollution
grade climbed from an "F" to a "D."
Washington County's "F" for
ozone pollution remained the same as in 2006. (Particle pollution is
not measured in the county due to a lesser density of population
compared to other areas of the state.)
"I'm concerned about the
local air quality," said David Thayer, 44, as he assembled a tandem
bicycle in Muskingum Park, readying for a Rivertrail ride with his
6-year-old daughter, Abigail, on Tuesday afternoon. Originally from the
Akron area, Thayer has lived in the Mid-Ohio Valley for the last 15
"Since I moved down here, I've had trouble with allergies
and sinus infections. I've heard people call it 'the Mid-Ohio Valley
creeping crud,'" he said. "My 14-year-old daughter also has had a lot
of sinus problems and ear infections."
"I think the air quality
issue is something that does need to be addressed," said Scot Monaghan,
owner of Barking Dog Books and Art on Front Street. "I don't believe
that industries are doing this on purpose to harm people, but I think
the EPA needs to enforce what they already have on the books.
"If air quality improvements can be done elsewhere in the state, why can't we do it here?" Monaghan asked.
A good question, according to Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association of Ohio.
report means that more people in Washington County have a health risk
from breathing ozone," she said. "Ozone has been referred to as causing
'sunburn' in the lungs. Especially at risk are people with any kind of
Out of Washington County's estimated population
of 62,210, those most at risk from ozone pollution include 1,195
children with pediatric asthma; 3,839 adult asthma patients; 2,065
people with chronic bronchitis; 987 emphysema sufferers; 17,152 persons
with cardiovascular disease; and 4,027 diabetics.
Also at risk are people younger than 18, and seniors older than 65.
"Ohio's worst problems come from coal-fired power plants and diesel-powered trucks and buses," Kiser said.
Fitch, director of the environmental science program at Marietta
College, agreed, and noted that although Washington County may not be
tested for particulate pollution, the particles are still here.
"We have plants up and down the Ohio River
that burn coal," he said. "And they emit extremely small particles that
are so tiny they can pass through the lung/blood barrier in our bodies.
we don't have data for the particulates because the testing agencies
don't have enough money, so they usually study the most populated areas
of the state," Fitch explained.
He said there may be some hope on the horizon for reducing the pollution.
"A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision could make a difference, if the Bush administration will move," Fitch said.
explained that when the Clean Air Act was passed in the 1970s, there
were a lot of coal-fired plants across the nation. But legislators knew
those facilities only had a limited operational lifetime.
of making each plant retrofit to meet the new requirements, they were
grandfathered in and allowed to buy pollution credits, etc., when they
should have gone out of business," Fitch said.
began upgrading everything inside many of those facilities except the
outside "shell," claiming that the plants should still be covered under
the grandfather clause.
"But the Supreme Court has now said 'no' to those companies," Fitch said. "That's an important ruling for the Ohio Valley."
He said American Electric Power has already announced it is adding new emission controls to its Muskingum River facilities.
think they saw the writing on the wall," Fitch said. "The case has
already been decided by the court, now we're just waiting for the Bush
administration to get off its backside and do something."
of ozone pollution, Fitch said people are often confused because
scientists are constantly speaking about the need to preserve the
Earth's ozone layer in the upper atmosphere.
"A simple way to
understand it is, up high ozone is good; down here it's bad," he said.
"Up high ozone makes up one of the onion-like layers of protection that
shields us from damaging solar radiation.
"But at ground level
ozone is bad because its reactive molecules are out of place," Fitch
said. "It not only affects humans, but can also damage crops, trees,
and even materials like paint."
Kiser said one way people can
help reduce the effects of ozone and particle pollution is to urge the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set new standards that would
better protect public health as required by the Clean Air Act.
American Lung Association is fighting for adequate funding in Ohio and
tougher federal standards because they protect Americans from dangerous
levels of air pollution," she said. "Air pollution shortens lifespans,
it lands our children and elderly in hospital emergency rooms, and it
can make children and teens more vulnerable to lung disease for the
rest of their lives."
view grades for air quality in this and other communities, and to learn
how to protect yourself and your family from air pollution, see the
American Lung Association “State of the Air 2007” report at www.ohiolung.org/SOTA2007.htm.