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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Driving Up Pollution Levels
In Delaware, on- and off-road vehicles (such as construction equipment) are the top two sources of in-state NOX and VOC emissions, the precursors to ozone pollution and contributors to particle pollution. According to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Air Quality (DNREC), motor vehicles pumped more than 28,000 tons of NOX into Delaware’s skies during 2008, the latest year data is available. During the same year, vehicles emitted more than 14,000 tons of VOCs.
Despite the state’s efforts to encourage public transit and carpooling, more than 80 percent of New Castle County workers still drive alone to their jobs.
“The key challenge is that the march of suburban sprawl continues,” says William Swiatek, senior planner with the Wilmington Area Planning Council, the regional transportation planning agency for New Castle County and Cecil County, Md. “This keeps residents reliant on their cars, forces car ownership upon those who cannot afford it, triggers big highway projects and undercuts efforts to improve mass transit and other alternative modes, which rely heavily on density for success.”
But although motor vehicle use is up, ozone and particle pollution levels have continued a downward trend in recent years. The state government has done its part to reduce NOX and VOCs, including adopting tougher emissions standards for vehicles, inspired by those used in California.
“Transportation emissions are projected to continue improving through the 2030s,” Swiatek says. “Today’s cleaner engines and fuels account for this. With continued growth in vehicle travel, however, we are dependent on continual technological innovations to sustain air quality improvements beyond 2035.”
Based on projections, vehicle emissions are expected to rise during the 2030s when all known technological advances have been implemented.