Lung association flunks city, 10 counties in pollution report

Baltimore-D.C. area 7th worst in nation

May 24, 2000|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

The American Lung Association has given failing grades to 10 Maryland counties and Baltimore, saying they have some of the worst smog problems in the country.

In a report released yesterday, the organization studied ground-level ozone pollution in communities nationwide from 1996 to 1998. Among counties with the worst air pollution were Anne Arundel, which ranked 11th in the country, and Prince George's, which ranked 24th.

"We have Washington, D.C.'s, pollution to share, and we've got our own problems," said Nancy Seiss of the American Lung Association of Maryland. "We're not in a great spot."

Cities and counties were given grades from A to F based on how often their air was deemed unhealthful by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index. Nearly half of the 678 counties studied received an F.

The report was released to coincide with the approach of summer, when ozone pollution is typically worst.

The Baltimore-Washington area ranked seventh among metropolitan areas with the worst air quality. The association gave Los Angeles the lowest score.

Dr. Robert Frank, professor emeritus at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Heath, said the report generally reaffirmed known problems. Frank, who has been studying air pollution for 40 years, said ozone exposure is known to cause temporary lung complications, particularly for those with diseases such as asthma.

"But if you're an asthmatic who has to go to the ER for treatment, it's nothing trivial," Frank said.

He added that scientists have speculated that ozone exposure can also have irreversible effects, such as stunting lung development in children or quickening aging in the lungs of an adult.

The local lung association is asking Maryland residents to avoid exercising on days with ozone pollution warnings and to cut down on driving.

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