3,900 in Md. affected in '97 ozone season

October 06, 1999|By Gary Dorsey | Gary Dorsey,SUN STAFF

During the "ozone season" of 1997, an estimated 3,900 people in Maryland visited hospital emergency rooms with respiratory problems due to smog -- nearly 1,900 of them in Baltimore.

These results from a study released yesterday provide the first documented look at the incidence of health effects associated with ozone pollution in 37 states, including Maryland.

"If a chemical spill sent 3,900 people to the emergency room with breathing distress, it would be a front-page disaster," said Dan Shawan of Maryland Public Interest Research Group, whose parent organization was one of three interest groups that funded the study. "But ground-level ozone racks up that kind of toll in Maryland every summer, and our society barely even acknowledges it as a problem."

Ozone pollution is at its worst from May through September.

The report titled "Out of Breath" represents the largest study linking ozone pollution to numbers of hospitalizations, emergency room visits and asthma attacks by state and by city.

Produced with funding from PIRG, the Clean Air Task Force and the National Environmental Trust, the report was well-received at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, where it was used to underscore EPA's agenda for reducing ozone-forming emissions. "Although we haven't had the opportunity to analyze its underlying data, the report appears to reinforce the kinds of serious concerns EPA has previously expressed," said Dave Ryan, an agency spokesman.

Pub Date: 10/06/99

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