Clark County receives mixed results for air quality

Clark County received mixed results on its air quality, according to a recent report from the American Lung Association.

The county received an F grade for its ozone quality, but received an A grade for short-term particle pollution, according to the Association’s State of the Air 2017 report.

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Clark County received an A in the category of 24-hour particle pollution, which showed no orange, red or purple days since 2010. The county also received a passing grade for annual particle pollution.

Clark County’s air is monitored by the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said. The county is downwind of Dayton, which has a huge effect on the air quality in Springfield and Clark County, as do emissions from Interstates 70 and 75, he said.

“We’re not blaming all of it on that, but if Springfield was two counties away from Dayton surrounded by rural areas, our numbers would be much better,” Patterson said.

The truck traffic from I-70 and I-75 affects the air in Clark County, as well as many of those diesel trucks which travel through the county’s portion of I-70, he said.

“All of that pollution moves to the east and the northeast to affect us,” Patterson said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into this.”

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The Association’s “State of the Air” collects data for two of the most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution.

Ozone, also known as smog, is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources, according to the association. When inhaled, smog can irritate the lungs and cause immediate health problems, such as coughing, wheezing and asthma attacks.

Clark County saw 11 orange-level ozone days between 2013 and 2015, which can be unhealthy for sensitive populations, such as people with asthma. There were no unhealthy or very unhealthy days, which are graded using red and purple, respectively.

Particle pollution levels can spike dangerously in the short term or remain high for large periods of time. It can affect the lungs, causing asthma attacks. The reduced particle pollution will provide a better environment for people with upper respiratory issues, including asthma, he said.

The Community Health Assessment shows a large number of people in Clark County have asthma, he said. The Community Health Improvement Plan includes performing home assessments for people with asthma on their environments and how they can best be treated, Patterson said.

“We’re working on it,” he said. “The good news about this report about the particulates is that it’s good news for the asthmatics.”

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The air quality has improved over the past 20 years in Clark County as newer technology has created more efficient vehicles, Patterson said. There were nearly 50 high ozone days between 1996 and 1998, according to the report.

“The trend shows us it will continue to get better, but there’s not much we can do about I-70, I-75 and being this close to Dayton,” he said.

It can improve even further by keeping small engines, such as lawnmowers, tuned up, he said. They can also be used during the evenings on high humidity days, Patterson said.

“We will see warm days and we will see days when the air is particularly bad,” he said. “Everybody needs to participate when we get those warnings from (RAPCA). We need to heed those warnings.”

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