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DC Area Has Some of the Worst Ozone Pollution in the Country

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LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — The D.C. area’s air quality has gotten better in the past 15 years, but there is still a lot of work to be done, according to the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report.

Released Wednesday, the study finds that half of all Americans still live in counties where ozone or particle pollution levels make the air unhealthy to breathe.

While no local cities or counties made it to the “25 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution” list (topped by the Fresno/Madera area of California) the D.C., Baltimore and Northern Virginia area is 8th on the list of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities.

Harford and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland even made it onto the list of the country’s 25 most ozone-polluted counties.

According to the report, ozone and particle-pollution are different, but both are dangerous.

Ozone, often called “smog,” is a molecule that develops from gases that come out of tailpipes, smokestacks and many other sources. When these gases come in contact with sunlight, they react and form ozone. Ozone aggressively attacks lung tissue by reacting chemically with it.

Particle pollution a mix of tiny solid and liquid particles that are in the air we breathe that may trigger illness, hospitalization and even premature death. Particle pollution differs between areas of the United States and at different times of the year. For example, sulfate particles can be emitted by large, coal-fired power plants and nitrate particles can come from vehicle exhaust.

While the country continued to reduce particle pollution overall, the report says it is “especially alarming” that ozone levels were much worse than in the previous year’s report.

In fact, 22 of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities in the 2014 report – including Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago – had more high ozone days on average when compared to 2013.

“We know that warmer temperatures increase risk for ozone pollution, so climate change sets the stage for tougher challenges to protect human health,” the report says.

To read the full report, click here.

D.C. Ozone
Ozone Grade – F
38 Orange Days
2 Red Days

Maryland’s Worst Ozone Areas

Anne Arundel County
Grade – F
30 Orange Days
5 Red Days

Baltimore County
Grade – F
43 Orange Days
3 Red Days

Calvert County
Grade – F
22 Orange Days
3 Red Days

Harford County
Grade – F
48 Orange Days
10 Red Days

Prince George’s County
Grade – F
52 Orange Days
1 Red Day

Northern Virginia’s Worst Ozone Areas

Alexandria City
Grade – F
21 Orange Days
3 Red Days

Arlington County
Grade – F
32 Orange Days
1 Red Day

Fairfax County
Grade – F
31 Orange Days
5 Red Days

Loudoun County
Grade – F
10 Orange Days
0 Red Days

Stafford County
Grade – F
11 Orange Days
0 Red Days

**Orange days are when children, active adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

**Red days are when children, active adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion and everyone else should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

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