County air fails air quality report

The results are in for the American Lung Association's 2012 air quality report, and Baltimore County received a failing grade in one of the two main categories.

Each year, for the past 13 years, the American Lung Association has compiled and analyzed data from air quality monitors and the most recent census to assign grades for counties and cities in America.

For the number of high ozone days, a poor air indicator, Baltimore County received an "F."

In the past year, the association reports that there were 28 high-ozone days categorized as orange in Baltimore County.

The data used to score the counties and cities was taken from The United States Environmental Protection Agency over the course of an eight-hour concentration period for each day.

Orange designates days that are unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as asthmatics and people living with chronic bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease.

The lung association also reports that there were three red days, which means generally unhealthy days for all people.

"Up to 70 percent of our air pollution comes from other states," Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman Jay Apperson said. Much of the state's pollution comes from Ohio Valley coal-fired power plants.

According to Apperson, for many years, Maryland and other states have questioned the methodology that American Lung Association uses for its report.

"Our scientists don't feel it's the best," he said.

Likewise, the county barely passed in the particle pollution category with a "D" for nine total orange days and no red days.

"There's been a lot of progress made in improving the air quality in Maryland, including Baltimore County," Apperson added.

The failing score in high ozone days breaks down to nine or more days over the number of allowable high ozone days and the "D" grade for particle pollutions is equal to nine or more days over the allowable number.

According to the association's findings in the 2010 census, there are 73,192 Baltimore County residents that have asthma, 20,375 that have chronic bronchitis, 8,404 with emphysema, 150,407 with cardiovascular disease, and 42,755 people that have diabetes.

"We were happy to see in that report that it calls for stronger air quality and pollution controls," Apperson said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment recently released their own air quality report, Clean Air Progress in Maryland.

"Maryland has worked very hard and there are measurable successes," Apperson said.

Although Baltimore County returned low air quality grades, the American Lung Association reports that overall, there have been improvements to air pollution sources from power plants and diesel engines.

The MDE also reported in their study that there has been a steady increase in the number of good and moderate air quality days.

According to Apperson, there are a number of ways that people can conserve energy and help to increase air quality.

"Try to telecommute, especially on bad air days and reduce unnecessary trips," he said. "Keep your car well maintained."

Along with the State of the Air report, the ALA also released their list of the most polluted cities in America for both high ozone and particle pollution.

The Washington, Baltimore, and Northern Virginia areas came in at 13 out of 25 for high ozone and 22 out of 25 for particle pollution.

Other "key findings" included that four in 10 people live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

For more information and a daily air forecast, go to http://www.cleanairpartners.net or call 410-537-3247.