From: Lisa Cornwell, Associated Press
Published November 17, 2005 12:00 AM

Report Says Smog a Problem in Ohio, Kentucky

CINCINNATI — A study showing that smog reached unhealthy levels in the Cincinnati and Dayton metropolitan areas 19 days this year demonstrates the continuing problem of air pollution and highlights the need for vehicle emission tests, the American Lung Association said Wednesday.


For at least nine of those 19 days from April through September, the smog levels also were at unhealthy levels in the northern Kentucky area across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, according to a joint report by the association's Ohio and Kentucky chapters.


The report comes as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency plans to end testing on emissions from vehicle tailpipes in seven southwest Ohio counties at the end of December. Tests in northern Kentucky ended earlier this month.


"Nineteen is a high number of days for a city to exceed the federal ozone levels," Janice Nolen, director of national policy for the American Lung Association, said Wednesday. "We are struggling to see how these states can cut emissions testing programs in those areas and still meet the federal health standards."


Smog, formed by nitrogen oxide and organic compounds mixing with heat and sunlight, has been linked to a wide range of health problems.


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"Many thousands of people in southwestern Ohio and northern Kentucky are at special risk from exposure to dirty air," said Roberta Taylor, regional program director for the American Lung Association of Southwest Ohio. "They include children, people with asthma, senior citizens and those suffering from chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other lung diseases."


More than 2.8 million people in southwestern Ohio and northern Kentucky live in areas where smog or ozone levels are too high, according to the report based on data from air quality monitoring agencies in Ohio and Kentucky that supply information to the U.S. EPA.


It is the first report by the association to look at high pollution levels for a single year, Nolen said.


Bruno Maier, supervisor of the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency in Dayton, said that results aren't official until the federal government checks them for quality assurance, but he said the official numbers usually don't vary much.


The Ohio EPA plans to hold a hearing next month on its proposals to replace emissions testing with pollution reducers such as additional controls on industry and cleaner-burning gasoline.


Lawsuits have been filed in Ohio and Kentucky to stop the elimination of emissions testing, but officials in both states are confident they have found good alternatives.


"We know we can't just get rid of E-Check without replacing it," said EPA spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer. "The modeling checks we have done on our proposals show that they will be efficient replacements."


Kentucky already required cleaner-burning gasoline and vapor recovery nozzles at gas stations and has added additional controls on industry.


"We know there will be some days that exceed approved levels, but we believe these alternatives will keep us in compliance with federal requirements," said Mark York, a spokesman for the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Council.


The U.S. EPA declared the entire region out of compliance with clean air laws in 2004, and a report released by the American Lung Association earlier this year gave eight southwest Ohio counties and the three in Kentucky an "F" rating for bad air quality.


"It's hard to see how these areas can meet federal requirements by getting rid of a tool like emissions testing that works and replacing it with something that might not succeed," said Nolen.


Source: Associated Press


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