Report shows progress in cleaning air

January 18, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Baltimore's air quality has greatly improved during the past 20 years, as the average number of days in which smog exceeded federal standards dropped from 24.7 a year in the early 1980s to 9.7 a year in the late 1990s, according to a business advocacy group report to be released today.

The city ranks in the nation's top 20 for progress in cleaning its air, according to the report by the Foundation for Clean Air Progress, which advocates for energy, manufacturing, transportation, farming and tourism businesses.

Baltimore's improvement was part of a national trend of declining days of high ozone, the foundation found in an analysis of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data. Foundation President Bill Fay said the improvement could be traced to the use of cleaner burning cars, cleaner fuels and cleaner power.

Rich McIntire, Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman, confirmed that Maryland's air is "definitely cleaner than it was 20 years ago," but questioned whether the foundation's numbers would be so optimistic if they had used newer, more stringent standards.

Nancy Seiss of the American Lung Association agreed that "progress has been made," but worried that the report "could be misleading" because the foundation didn't use the tougher standards. A lung association report released last summer found that air pollution is a "continuing and major threat to public health in Baltimore," she said.

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