Smog poses health risk to a third of Marylanders, report finds

May 01, 2001|By Heather Dewar | Heather Dewar,SUN STAFF

Nearly one-third of Maryland residents are at risk of health problems caused by smog, according to a new report by the American Lung Association.

For the second year in a row, the organization said Maryland and 10 of its counties have some of the worst smog in the country.

"Maryland needs to do everything it can to clean the air," said Paul Billings of the American Lung Association. "It needs an across-the-board effort."

Maryland suffers from multiple sources of smog, or ozone pollution, created when high summer temperatures "cook" the gases released by burning fossil fuels.

The state is downwind from pollution sources in the Ohio Valley, adds to the problem with its own coal-burning power plants and is increasingly troubled by pollution from cars and trucks as residents' commutes get longer.

Studies show that smog can cause chronic illness, hospitalizations and premature death among children, the elderly and people with asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

More than 1.3 million of Maryland's 3.8 million residents are under 14 or over 65, placing them at increased risk. About 50,000 Maryland children suffer from asthma, worsening their risk, according to the organization's report.

Using air pollution information collected by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 668 counties across the country between 1998 and 2000, the American Lung Association gave each state and county a letter grade as a measure of its smog problem.

Maryland, the Baltimore-Washington area and 10 Maryland counties scored an F - results similar to those in the organization's first ozone report card, issued last year.

The Baltimore-Washington area had the seventh-worst ozone pollution levels in the nation, the report said. Only four Southern California cities, Houston and Atlanta scored worse.

Anne Arundel County, which gets smog from both Baltimore and Washington, was 10th-worst among the 668 counties studied.

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