Macon area slips in air pollution rankings

hduncan@macon.comMay 1, 2013 

The Macon area’s ranking in an annual assessment of air pollution has dropped again when it comes to the risk from year-round exposure to fine particle pollution.

Last year the metropolitan area including Macon, Warner Robins and Fort Valley didn’t make the American Lung Association’s list of the top 25 most polluted cities for either ozone pollution or fine particle pollution, such as soot. Both types can cause lung and heart problems. In previous years it had fallen in the middle of the rankings for year-round, fine particle pollution risk, and it’s back there again, ranking 14th.

As a result, there are almost 29,000 adults and about 8,700 children in the Macon area at risk for asthma, according to the association calculations. The pollution also puts an estimated 109,000 people at risk for heart disease and 33,000 people at risk for diabetes.

The American Lung Association gave the metropolitan area grades of F for both year-round fine particle pollution and ozone pollution exposure, and a B for 24-hour fine particle pollution risk. That indicates that although the constant level of exposure could cause bad health effects over time, the fine particle pollution levels rarely get high enough on a single day to cause acute health problems.

The rankings were based on air quality data from 2009 to 2011. The report noted that air quality across the country is far better than it was a decade ago, but it indicated that about 42 percent of Americans still live in areas where the air is dangerous to breathe.

The report recommends tightening air standards through a number of changes that federal regulators are already considering and adding more air monitors, especially near major highways.

The full report and interactive maps are available at www.stateoftheair.org.

To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.

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