Campers at Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills take a water… (Kenneth K. Lam )
Summer's off to a smoggy start in Maryland and across the country, it seems.
Since the first official day of summer June 20, there have been nine days when ozone pollution made the air unhealthful for at least some Marylanders to breathe, according to Clean Air Partners, which publishes air-quality forecasts. In that period, the Baltimore metro area has seen six days bad enough to pose problems either for sensitive individuals or everyone.
Overall, there've been 14 days so far this year across Maryland when ozone reached levels that could hurt asthmatics and others with respiratory or heart problems, and two days - June 21 and 29 - when it was bad enough to hurt the breathing of anyone who ventured outdoors.
That's actually slightly worse than last year, when by this time the state had logged 13 Code Orange or Code Red days. The Baltimore area has fared somewhat better this year, though, with just 7 Code Orange or Red days to date, compared with 10 last year.
(Code Orange is the label given ozone readings high enough to pose a health risk for sensitive individuals, including children, the elderly and those with respiratory or cardiac problems. Code Red is for ozone readings high enough to cause wheezing, headache, coughing and a burning in the chest for even healthy individuals.)
Smog apparently has been bad in other parts of the country as well. According to Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch, June saw more days with high ozone readings nationwide anytime in the past five years. O'Donnell's survey found 2,110 "exceedances" of the national health standard for ozone last month, compared with 1,240 in June 2011. For the year to date, there have been 3,112 Code Orange or Code Red readings, compared to 1,689 in 2011.
While ozone comes from motor vehicle exhaust, power plant emissions and a wide range of other sources, one of the worst smog readings in the country so far this was picked up near Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in rural Dorchester County, according to O'Donnell. That's an indication of how the pollution that forms smog can travel great distances - half or more of the ozone in Maryland comes from beyond our boundaries, state officials say.
With temperatures forecast to be in the high 90s the rest of this week, officials are predicting ozone will reach Code Orange levels through Saturday. As of 1 p.m. today, that mark has already been reached in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, in southern Maryland and at Horn Point in Dorchester County.