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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“The air in Delaware is certainly cleaner than when we started the State of the Air report 14 years ago,” says Deb Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “Even though New Castle County experienced an increase in unhealthy days of high ozone, the air quality is still better compared to a decade ago.
“But the work is not done,” she continues, “We must set stronger health standards for pollutants and clean up sources of pollution throughout Delaware to protect the health of our citizens.”
On- and off-road vehicles, fossil-fueled power plants, gas stations, chemical plants and refineries are common contributors to air pollution.
Ozone, also known as smog, is formed when nitrogen oxide (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) combine with heat and sunlight, creating a highly reactive gas that’s harmful to breathe. (VOCs are gases emitted from fuels, paints and lacquers, cleaning products, pesticides, glues and other chemicals.)
Particle pollution, commonly called soot, is a mixture of tiny, airborne solid and liquid particles that affect lung function and shorten life.
Ozone and particle pollution levels are highest during the summer.
This is the 14th year in a row that New Castle and Sussex counties have received failing grades for their ozone pollution levels. Kent received a grade of “C” for ozone in 2007 and 2008 until the EPA lowered its national standards.
According to the 2013 report, New Castle County had a total of 26 “orange” days for ozone pollution during the three-year study period. Sussex had 13 “orange” days, while Kent had eight.
For particle pollution, New Castle had eight “orange” days, while Sussex and Kent had none.
A day is rated as “orange” when pollution reaches unhealthy levels for sensitive groups, including young children, older adults and people with chronic lung diseases.
There were two “red” days for ozone in New Castle and Sussex counties reported during the study period, and none in Kent. There were no “red” days for particle pollution in the state.
A day is rated as “red” when pollution levels may affect all people, even those in good health.