Thursday, May 01, 2008

American Lung Association Proclaims Anchorage And Fairbanks Among America's Least Polluted Cities In Their "State Of The Air 2008" Report

On May 1st, 2008, the American Lung Association (ALA) issued its "State Of The Air 2008" report - and it contains good news for us Alaskans. Anchorage is number nine in the country in having the least problems with year-round particle pollution, and Fairbanks is listed among American cities having the least problems with short term particle pollution. Clicking on the Alaska map provides more detailed information about the state of Alaska's air. Local Alaskan media hasn't picked up the story yet; media story obtained from KSL Channel 5 in Salt Lake. Read the ALA's press release HERE.

The Lung Association evaluates three components of air quality: ozone, short-term particle pollution, and year-round particle pollution. Definitions and distinctions as follows:

(1). Ozone: an invisible gas that is formed most often by a reaction of sunlight and vapors emitted when fuel is burned by cars and trucks, factories, power plants and other sources. Ozone usually peaks in the summer months, from May through October, when temperatures are highest and sunlight is strongest. It reacts chemically ("oxidizes") with internal body tissues with which it comes in contact. Like sunburn irritates the skin, it especially irritates the respiratory tract, and can cause health problems the day you breathe in high levels of smog or after long-term exposure.

(2). Particle Pollution: Considered the most dangerous of the widespread outdoor air pollutants. It is typically made up of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols. Particle levels can spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end (short-term) or reach high levels for most of the year (year-round). Breathing particle pollution can kill. Breathing particle pollution year-round can shorten life by one to three years. It triggers heart attacks, strokes, irregular heartbeats, and causes lung cancer and premature births. Particle pollution harms people in many ways, even when the particle levels are very low. Particle pollution worsens serious respiratory disorders, including asthma and causes wheezing and coughing.

In the eastern U.S., many particles come from power plants that burn coal to produce electricity. In the western U.S., particles come from diesel buses, trucks and heavy equipment, agriculture and wood burning. Short-term means episodic; for example, the Salt Lake Valley experiences particle pollution, but is considered short-term because it primarily occurs in winter, and only when a strong high pressure system sets up a local inversion. This generally doesn't happen during the summer. In other cities, it's a chronic year-round problem.

People from outside Alaska can find out details about their states by clicking HERE, then selecting the state of interest.

Commentary: This report merely confirms what we Alaskans already knew, and further justifies the decision by the Anchorage Municipal Assembly on November 6th, 2007 to repeal the local emissions testing program (click HERE then scroll down to page 31, para 11b to read the debate and the decision. Note that Matt Claman and Sheila Selkregg opposed repeal - they support big government). Government programs should exist only as long as there is a general societal need for such programs. Once they become superseded, they should be scrapped.

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