Delaware’s Air Quality Threat: Know How Pollution Affects You
Despite improvements to our air quality, air pollution remains a pervasive public health threat. And even people with healthy lungs can suffer the effects.
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For most people, summertime is synonymous with hanging out by the pool, weekend cookouts and other outdoor activities.
But that’s not the case for New Castle County resident and lung disease sufferer Joan Youngblood. As the temperatures rise outside, so do the county’s ozone and particle pollution levels, aggravating Youngblood’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. She spends much of the hot-weather months indoors.
“Air quality does make a huge difference,” Youngblood says. “When it’s hot and humid, it’s really hard to breathe. I have to pace myself. I can’t do the things I used to do.”
Unfortunately, Youngblood’s summertime hibernations will be a way of life for the foreseeable future, based on a recent report from the American Lung Association.
This year, the association gave New Castle and Sussex counties failing grades for their ozone pollution levels. Kent County received a “D” for ozone, the first passing grade since 2008 when federal standards were lowered.
New Castle County received a “D” for its short-term particle pollution levels, while Kent and Sussex both received an “A.”
All three counties received passing grades for year-round particle pollution levels.
The Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland metropolitan area, which includes New Castle County, ranked No. 11 this year on the association’s national list of most polluted regions. In contrast, Dover appears on the association’s list of “Cleanest U.S. Cities for Short-Term Particle Pollution.”
The ratings are part of the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report, which assigns grades to counties across the United States based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) color-coded Air Quality Index. This year’s grades were tallied using local data collected from official EPA air pollution monitoring stations during 2009, 2010 and 2011.