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April 25th, 2013 By German Lopez | News | Posted In: News, Environment, Energy

Greater Cincinnati Among Worst for Air Pollution

Report finds region 10th worst for year-round particle pollution

us epaU.S. EPA's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Greater Cincinnati area and Hamilton County ranked poorly in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report, released April 24, with failing grades in a couple categories.

The report, which used 2009-2011 U.S. EPA data, gave the Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington region an “F” for ozone pollution, a “D” for 24-hour particle pollution and a “fail” for year-round particle pollution. The region ranked 10th worst for year-round particle pollution and No. 14 worst for ozone pollution.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County received an “F” for its overall performance, with an “F” in ozone pollution, a “D” in 24-hour particle pollution and a “fail” in year-round particle pollution.

But the report found overall improvement around the nation, with most cities reducing year-round particle pollution and days of high ozone pollution.

Despite its current standing, Greater Cincinnati has also improved in the past few decades.

In comparison to 1996, the region has 16.9 fewer high ozone days per year. In comparison to 2000, the region has 19.9 fewer days of high particle pollution and a lower concentration of pollutants in the air throughout the year.

Exposure to ozone and other pollutants can damage lung tissue, putting Greater Cincinnati at a higher risk for respiratory disease.

Particle pollution occurs when the air is tainted by a complex mix of pollutants. Year-round exposure can lead to death and cancer, while 24-hour spikes in exposure can cause illness and even death under some circumstances.

To help combat the issue, the report makes policy recommendations to the U.S. EPA, asking for stronger regulations on various sources of pollution, including power plants, gasoline, cars and even wood smoke. The Clean Air Act, which was strengthened in 1990, gives the EPA the regulatory power necessary to hand down regulations on many of these issues, but funding more enforcement would likely require congressional action.

States and cities can also curtail air pollution by passing clean energy policies. Ohio began supporting clean energy when it passed its Clean Energy Law in 2008, but State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, is reviewing the law’s energy efficiency and clean energy standards and may ultimately weaken them (“How Clean is Too Clean?” issue of March 27).

In Cincinnati, the state standards have helped foster more solar energy developments, which Environment Ohio says could turn Cincinnati into the solar capital of the region (“Solar Cincinnati,” issue of Dec. 19).

More public transportation options can also help reduce air pollution. The advocacy group American Public Transportation Association says switching from private to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon footprint: “A single commuter switching his or her commute to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10 percent and up to 30 percent if he or she eliminates a second car. When compared to other household actions that limit CO2, taking public transportation can be 10 times greater in reducing this harmful greenhouse gas.”

Cincinnati is currently pursuing plans to build a streetcar, but the project is being threatened by a major budget gap. The city is also planning to build more bike trails and other transportation options as part of Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master plan since 1980.

 
 
 
 
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