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Published: Friday, 4/26/2013

Toledo’s air improving but still gets low grades

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Air quality in Lucas County received a passing grade in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2013 report, but just barely.

Released on Thursday, the report gave the county a grade of D for ozone pollution and a C for 24-hour particle pollution. The county was also given a ranking of “pass” for particle pollution.

According to the study, “the Toledo-Fremont area ranked tied for 80th-most polluted in the nation during the most recent reporting time period.” Last year, the area was ranked 83rd.

Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio, said the air in Toledo is better than it has been in the past.

“The air has definitely gotten cleaner, though we’ve made a little step back in some areas in the state,” she said.

Ms. Kiser said Toledo’s data presented something unique this year.

“Toledo has actually done pretty well this year, compared to some of the cities in Ohio. A lot of the cities saw their ozone levels increase. Toledo did not, which is amazing, because most cities saw that,” she said.

An increase in ozone levels likely can be attributed to hotter temperatures.

Other factors also have contributed to Lucas County being able to maintain its D ranking for ozone pollution.

“There are a lot of things happening around that are cleaning up the air,” Ms. Kiser said. She said coal-fired power plants are cleaning up emissions and the development of more environmentally friendly diesel trucks has aided in lessening pollutants.

The Clean Air Act, which requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollutants, has also affected the rankings.

“Those power plants would not have been cleaned up” without the resulting regulations, Ms. Kiser said.

But she said that doesn’t mean the battle is over.

“We need to continue this. It still needs to be cleaned up because there were unhealthy air days.”

Lucas County had three “orange” pollution days, which indicate that the air was unhealthy for sensitive populations; children and seniors are especially at risk.

Ms. Kiser said the EPA is considering ways to make gasoline and vehicle emissions cleaner, which would be important for a city like Toledo, which has “a lot of people, a lot of transportation, a lot of particle pollution.”

Surrounding counties also did not have higher grade ratings, with the exception of one, and a few were not able to be collected. Wood County received a rating of B for ozone pollution; Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties were both given F ratings for ozone pollution. Data were not able to be collected in Fulton or Ottawa counties, because neither county has a monitor installed.

Ms. Kiser said the Ohio EPA sets up the monitors, which are used to collect the data.

“It’s frustrating for people, I know,” she said. “They can always call the EPA and express an interest in getting the monitor in their area. You can look at two counties and their grades can be very different. You can’t always look at your neighboring county.”

While the grade ranking in Lucas County is just above passing, Ms. Kiser said the bigger picture indicates a positive change in the past decade.

“Overall, we are much better than we were 14 years ago. We can see a definite decrease in pollution, thanks to the Clean Air Act. We definitely need to continue our progress and not fall back anymore, so people with asthma, children or seniors won’t have breathing or health problems because of dirty air,” she said.

The American Lung Association has distributed its State of the Air report for 14 years, using air pollution data compiled by the EPA.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-724-6522, or on Twitter @KMcBlade.



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