The Mid-Atlantic region (region 3), composed of Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, continues to carry the highest air pollution burden in the nation, according to findings contained in the latest report on air quality, State of the Air: 2006, published by the American Lung Association.
The report notes that air pollutants blown in from outside the region combined with locally developed pollution have created a complex clean up problem. Findings presented in the report show that, “nine major Mid-Atlantic cities or parts of cities ranked among the 25 most polluted by particles year-round. Six cities or parts of cities are on the list of 25 cities most polluted by ozone and five are on the most-polluted list for short-term particles. The most burdened major cities include: Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA (ranked 3rd for year-round exposure and 4th for short-term exposure to particles and 17th for ozone levels); Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, DC-MD-VA-WV (ranked 12th worst for both ozone and short-term particle exposure, and 21st for year-round exposure to particles); Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland, PA-NJ-DE-MD (which remained ranked as the 10th most ozone-polluted city); and the Pennsylvania suburbs of the New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA metro area (ranked 9th worst for ozone, 15th for short-term particle exposure and 16th for year-round particles). Nine smaller cities also ranked among the most polluted, especially in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Counties in those states also ranked among the most polluted, along with several counties in Maryland. This region had more cities ranked among the most polluted by year-round levels of particle pollution than any other region. The Mid-Atlantic was second only to the California-dominated Region 9 in the number of metropolitan areas ranked as among the most polluted by short-term particle pollution and tied for second with the upper Midwest (Region 5) for ozone.”
Findings contained in the report’s regional detail note improvement in overall air quality in several sections of Virginia, but also show a marked decline in others.
“Northern Virginia continues to suffer from high levels of air pollution as part of the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area. Fairfax County, part of that metropolitan area, was ranked as the 23rd most ozone-polluted county in the nation, its first time on that list. Virginia counties generally had significantly fewer unhealthy ozone and particle pollution days in 2002-2004 than in 2001-2003. Rockbridge County and Lynchburg City improved their grades to an A for ozone and particle pollution, respectively. In more good news, several counties improved their grades from an F, most notably Page County and Roanoke County for ozone and Richmond City for particle levels, all of which improved to a C grade.”
In conclusion, the report emphasizes the need for increased public support, noting that “in its 35-year history, the Clean Air Act has repeatedly proven its worth. The protections written into that law have helped reduce the burden of air pollution across the nation, making the air cleaner than when the Act was first written in 1970.
“However, cleaner air is not clean enough. Documented in the American Lung Association State of the Air 2006 report is strong evidence that dangerously unhealthy air is still an unfortunate reality for over 150 million people who live in areas of the United States where dirty air is a continuing danger to public health.” ##