An American Lung Association study indicates that the overall quality of air for Penobscot County is good.

For the past 16 years, the American Lung Association has undertaken the “State of the Air” report, which examines air pollution levels across the U.S. The report reviews monitoring data on the two most common and harmful types of air pollution – ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot) – and compiles a “report card” telling how much of each type of pollution is in the air where you live and breathe. The current report, released recently, is based on readings from 2013.

Dangerous levels of air pollution can harm everyone, even healthy adults. However, those at greatest risk include infants, children, older adults, anyone with lung disease like asthma and COPD, people with heart disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works or exercises outdoors. High levels of pollution can cause severe asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes. Recently, the World Health Organization concluded that particle pollution can cause lung cancer, the number one cancer killer in America.

“State of the Air 2015” gave reason for celebration in some areas. The best progress showed in levels of year-round particle pollution, which have been steadily improving; all counties in Maine received an “A” grade this section of the report. The ALA said that is due to the transition to cleaner diesel fuel and engines and steps taken to clean up power plants, especially in the Eastern U.S.

The ALA’s report shows ozone data on all ends of the scale, with Penobscot County receiving a B. There was just one days with unhealthy ozone levels in 2013. Five counties – Androscoggin, Aroostook, Kennebec, Oxford and Sagadahoc – had no days with unhealthy levels of ozone and received an A on the report; York County, meanwhile had 10 unhealthy ozone days and received an F.

In a press release, the ALA said climate change creates the ideal conditions for both particle and ozone pollution. Warmer weather increases the risk of ozone pollution and makes cleaning it up even more challenging. Rising temperatures also increase droughts, wildfires and other sources of particle pollution.

“While our report shows steady improvement since our first ‘State of the Air’ 16 years ago, it also shows evidence that the changing climate will make it harder to keep up this trend and protect human health,” said the AL:A. “Bearing the greatest burden will be children with asthma and the elderly, and other vulnerable populations. It’s clear that we must act now to keep making progress in the fight for healthy air, and to defend the progress we’ve made since the Clean Air Act started giving us healthier air in 1970.”

The American Lung Association calls for several steps to safeguard the air including strengthening outdated ozone standards; adopting a strong final Clean Power Plan; protecting the Clean Air Act; and funding the work to provide healthy air.


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