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Quick and Dirty

Sucking Air

By Christina Royster-Hemby | Posted 5/10/2006

The American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report, released April 27, once again lists the Baltimore-Washington-Northern Virginia region as having some of the worst air quality in the country.

According to the report, the region ranks No. 12 in the country in both ozone pollution and short-term particle pollution. In fact, the region ranked 12th last year, too, as the most polluted locality (“Something in the Air,” May 25, 2005). According to officials from the American Lung Association of Maryland, the region is challenged by air-quality issues for a several reasons: geographic location, a lot of industry, and a lot of traffic.

“You have an area that is high-trafficked by boats, cars, trucks, et cetera, via the Washington and Baltimore beltways,” says Steve Peregoy, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of Maryland. “And that’s coupled with some of the power plants spread throughout the state, and ozone and particle pollution that comes from the Midwest that is transported by the trade winds from that direction [to Maryland].”

Though the air quality hasn’t improved in the region over the last few years, Peregoy says he’s hoping that two new measures will help: the Healthy Air Act, recently passed by the governor and state legislature during its last session, which seeks to reduce pollution in the state; and the state’s Clean Power Rule, a new regulation that will require power plants to institute emission controls to reduce the release of nitrous oxides, sulfur oxides, and mercury. Though the implementation of the two measures should change the air quality in the region considerably, Peregoy says, it will be a while before residents feel the full impact.

“Full implementation won’t begin until close to 2010,” he says.

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