Friday, May 11, 2007

California tops with most air polluted cities

Concerned about the severe impacts of air pollution on their health, millions of Americans are urging the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt stronger ozone standards that will protect the population from breathing this dangerous air pollutant.

The clamor was sparked after the latest study of the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2007 reported that the air is still not clean enough to be considered safe to breathe in some identified parts of the United States. It also cited medical researches that millions are at risk from smog even at the levels the EPA has considered safe.

What are ozone and particulate matter? Ground level ozone is the prime ingredient of smog, the pollution that blankets many urban areas during the summer. “When inhaled, even at low levels, ozone can cause respiratory problems and aggravated asthma in children, the elderly, those with respiratory diseases and even healthy adults who are working or exercising outside on a smoggy day,” science studies showed.

The Association identified at least 25 cities most polluted by short-term particle pollution. Of the total, seven of the cities are found in California, where the state government is doing all it could to tackle the problem by reducing the effects of carbon emissions from sots of factories and exhausts of vehicles and industries.

Topping the list of the most polluted cities is Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside areas in California. With a total combined population of 17.6 million people, those suffering from pediatric asthma account to 438,040; adult asthma, 916,542; chronic bronchitis, 510,446; emphysema, 202,486; and CV disease, 3.6 million.

The other California cities include Fresno-Madera, Bakersfield, Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Truckee, San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Hanford-Corcoran, and Visalia-Porterville areas.

The EPA revealed that the major sources of air pollution in the ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach areas are diesel- powered ships, trucks and freight-moving vehicles. Considered to be one-third of the nation’s container cargo, container traffic at these ports is expected to quadruple over the next 20 years, thus making it a concern for the federal government to improve air quality as older diesel equipment will be replaced with cleaner-burning engines. The EPA has earmarked a US$1.4 million in grants for the sole purpose of curbing the diesel pollution as part of the West Coast collaborative project.

EPA was an active participant in a Port of Los Angeles task force dedicated to ensuring that there will be no net increase in air pollution from the port’s operations as they expand in the years ahead.

In fact, the Port of Long Beach has adopted a “Green Port Policy” with similar goals. EPA has provided a $100,000 grant to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, with more than $2.1 million in matching funds, to retrofit a locomotive servicing the two ports to operate primarily on cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas. This project is projected to cut annual emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides by about 17 tons, and particulates by 860 pounds.

Likewise, the EPA has also provided a $75,000 grant to the Port of Long Beach, with $525,000 in matching funds from other partners, to retrofit three yard hostlers with liquefied natural gas engines, and compare their power and effectiveness with equivalent diesel-powered freight moving vehicles over a six-month period. The goal is to cut the yard hostlers’ nitrogen oxide emissions by 63%, and particulates by 80%. EPA has even put part of a company’s air pollution penalty to work reducing the port’s air emissions. As part of a $900,000 legal settlement with EPA, the ARCO Terminal Services Corp. agreed to spend $675,000 on a project to demonstrate a new emissions control technology for rubber-tired gantry cranes at the Port of Long Beach.

In California, PM2.5 tends to be higher in the fall and winter because nitrates form more readily in cooler weather and because increased use of wood stoves and fireplaces produces more carbon. This is especially true in the San Joaquin Valley, where PM2.5 reaches unhealthy levels during the fall and winter. In the Los Angeles area, by contrast, PM2.5 pollution can reach unhealthy levels at any time of year because the huge number of motor vehicles there emit PM2.5 year-round. The area reduced its PM2.5 pollution by 16% last year, but it was not enough to meet the health standard, the EPA said.

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