Bad air nothing new for Ohio Valley

Dealing with poor air quality is nothing new for Ohio Valley residents, including those living in Marshall County, said Ronda Francis, Marshall County Health Department administrator.

Francis’ comments come in reaction to the annual State of the Air 2014 report released by the American Lung Association. Marshall County did not receive a grade for its ozone, or smog, pollution because there is no monitor in the county. But it did receive a failing grade for its annual particle pollution and a B grade for its 24-hour particle pollution.

“This report varies very little from year to year. Those growing up in the area have contended with poor air quality their entire lives. Factors such as industry, pollen counts, mold spores and other naturally found particulates contribute to the quality of the air, which results in seasonal fluctuations. Individuals with chronic respiratory illness should monitor air quality daily and plan their outdoor activities for days with less airborne particulate matter,” Francis said.

According to the report, the city of Weirton, as part of the Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton Metropolitan Statistical Area, ranked sixth on the list of Top 10 cities in the nation regarding the most particle air pollution in a 24-hour period. It received the same ranking for the most year-round particle pollution.

Ohio County received a grade of D for its ozone pollution; a passing grade for its annual particle pollution; and an A grade for its 24-hour particle pollution. Howard Gamble, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administrator, said the county’s air is better than it was 10 to 15 years ago.

“The quality of air and water has seen some slight improvements over the last several years in our area. However, the drop in ozone ranking in the annual ALA State of the Air report is a cause for concern. Ozone is the most widespread air pollutant which develops from emissions from tailpipes, smokestacks and other sources, which when in contact with sunlight reacts and forms smog,” Gamble said.

Ohio County did see a decrease in the amount of its particle pollution, which increases people’s risk for lung cancer, asthma, heart disease and other health problems, he said.

“Change to air and water quality does take time and changes in federal and state policies as well as our own habits concerning air quality are often weighted against politics and economics,” Gamble said. “By decreasing an area’s ozone (smog) levels we can reduce the number of asthma-related visits to the doctor’s office or emergency room. Part of the report focuses on groups at risk. By improving air quality we limit the number of people in these groups, such as infants, older adults with a lung disease or other chronic condition and low income people who would become sick, and increase the cost of health care services.”

According to the report, across the country particle pollution is decreasing, but ozone is increasing. Air pollution data used for the report are from 2010-12.

Other local counties’ grades include: Brooke: C grade for particle pollution in 24 hours, a failing grade for annual particle pollution, and no monitor is available for ozone; Hancock: D grade for ozone, A grade for particle pollution in 24 hours, and a passing grade for annual particle pollution; Belmont: no monitors for ozone or particle pollution; Jefferson: D grade for ozone, B grade for particle pollution in 24 hours, and a failing grade for annual particle pollution; Monroe: no monitors; Noble: incomplete data; Harrison: no monitors and incomplete data.