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New Smog Standards Pose Problem for L'ville

While Louisville struggles to come into compliance with current Environmental Protection Agency standards for smog, the U.S. agency is proposing even stricter standards.  Smog, or ground level ozone, forms when vehicle and other emissions react in sunlight.  It can aggravate lung problems and has been linked to premature deaths.  Metro Air Pollution Control District spokesman Matt Stull says attaining an “in compliance” rating from the EPA on the new standard will take time.

“In the release from the EPA they say that attainment could be based and probably will be based on some technologies that aren’t even developed yet.  So, you know, we’re hopeful that those come out and will help us to reach whatever number is proposed.”

The EPA is holding public meetings on the proposed new standards in early February.

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EPA to Update Air Quality Standards

The EPA has announced it will revise standards for nitrogen oxides, or NO2, by early 2010.  NO2 is a harmful-to-your-health gaseous emission from burning fossil fuels, and the major sources are vehicles and coal-fired power plants.  creative_commons_louisville_roadtrip

The EPA periodically updates its emission standards based on the latest science.  What’s of interest about this periodic review is the agency’s decision to add NO2 monitoring sites along roadways.  New evidence shows that NO2 can be more dangerous in short, intense exposures, such as what might be found along a major highway.  From the EPA’s announcement in the Federal Register:

“Because monitors in the current network are not sited to measure peak roadway-associated NO2 concentrations, individuals who spend time on and/or near major roadways could experience NO2 concentrations that are considerably higher than indicated by monitors in the current area-wide NO2 monitoring network [of about 400 nationwide].”

Forty to 80% higher, it projects.  So folks who spend time on or near highways could be breathing in much more NO2 than we know. And we know more now, the EPA says, about why that’s not so good: recent scientific evidence has established pretty clear links between NO2 and respiratory ailments and an increase in emergency room visits.

The highway monitors may not yet be in place. But in separate-though-related news, you can get ready to track this and other public health concerns from your nearest computer.  The Centers for Disease Control just launched its online Public Health Tracking Network.  It’s easy to access and understand than other means of finding this data, I think. Check for incidences of cancer in your area, air quality indicators, information on birth defects and the environment, and more.