High ozone levels found; Pollution among nation's worst, MaryPIRG says; Downwind from sources; Davidsonville, Fort Meade have severe problems


Anne Arundel County suffers from the worst ozone pollution on the East Coast, according to a study by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG).

Ozone levels around Fort Meade and in Davidsonville are among the highest in the nation, said the environmental group, which measures the concentration of ozone in the air.

Ozone pollution is at its worst from May through September. The gas is a mix of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide cooked under sunlight. Produced primarily by automobile exhaust and fossil-fuel-burning power plants, it can cause lung damage, eye irritation, breathing difficulties and chest pain.

County Executive Janet S. Owens has not seen a copy of the report, which was released yesterday.

An increase in ozone pollution in the Fort Meade area "is indicative of a problem over a much larger area," said Dan Shawhan, a MaryPIRG spokesman.

Democratic Del. Mary M. Rosso said yesterday that the county "does not have air quality as a high priority, and we need to change that." Rosso said she had not seen the report.

High levels of ozone can burn lung tissue and cause the airways to become swollen and inflamed, Shawhan said. That can cause scarring and decrease the amount of oxygen circulated in the body, he said.

Breathing problems from increased levels of ozone sent 3,900 people to emergency rooms in Maryland this summer. In Anne Arundel County, the number was 305, MaryPIRG said.

Anne Arundel County has high levels of ozone because it is "downwind from Washington, D.C., and downwind from all the dirty coal plants in Maryland and the Midwest," said Shawhan.

This summer, Fort Meade recorded 25 days when ozone exceeded standards, according to the MaryPIRG measurements. In Davidsonville, a small community southwest of Annapolis, 42 such days were recorded.

The report has been forwarded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Pub Date: 10/13/99

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