Friday, April 27, 2012

Hillsborough Gets an “F”, Kids With Asthma Pay the Price: Tampa and Southwest Florida Continue to Suffer from Unhealthy Smog Pollution; Elevated Levels of Ozone Trigger Hillsborough Air Pollution Advisory


(Tampa) The Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County issued an Air Pollution Advisory Thursday April 26 and again Friday April 27 due to anticipated levels of ozone pollution. According to the advisory, ozone levels are expected to reach levels of 101-150, considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children, elderly, and those with existing respiratory ailments such as asthma and COPD. These conditions are now forecast to persist through Friday.

This advisory comes on the heels of a report released Tuesday by the American Lung Association, which grades Florida air quality county-by-county according to common air pollutants like particulates and ozone. The report shows that Hillsborough County received an “F” grade for its frequent number of such bad air quality days in 2011: 11 orange alert days, regarded by EPA as being “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” during which “Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects”, and 1 red alert day, with ozone levels so high that “Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.” This information is contained within ALA’s new report available at http://www.stateoftheair.org/

This week’s high ozone levels are due a combination of typical spring weather: calm winds, low humidity, and lots of Florida sunshine combined with accumulations of nitrogen oxide (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). NOX and VOC are converted through exposure to sunshine to ground level ozone, also known as smog. Unlike most of America, where coal burning power plants are the source of NOX and VOC that create summer smog, Florida’s riskiest season for smog is in the spring months of April, May and June until summer thunderstorms help keep the air cleaner. Thanks to local utilities’ efforts to reduce emissions and the lack of transportation alternatives that most U.S. communities offer, gas-powered cars and trucks are believed to be as significant a source of NOX and VOC in the region as are coal-fired power plants.

Phil Compton, Tampa Bay Representative for Sierra Club’s Florida Healthy Air Campaign, said: “If you know someone with asthma or COPD, please let them know that today is NOT a good time to take a walk or do any other kind of exercise outdoors, as the forecast is for another ORANGE ALERT day in Hillsborough Co.”

Sierra Club joins the Florida Department of Health in recommending that all schools, child care centers, and parents of children with asthma stay on top of our potentially hazardous springtime ozone levels with the EPA's smartphone app or website @ http://www.airnow.gov/ for the daily air alert.


Britten Cleveland, Sierra Club’s Healthy Air Campaign Representative for Sarasota, added: “The solution to our hazardous pollution is to offer commuters the kind of choices; expanded bus service, safer streets for pedestrians and bicyclists, and light rail that most Americans take for granted. Also, Floridians can now choose from a greater variety of cleaner, more efficient vehicles, including electric vehicles that can be charged at any of the region’s 100 new public charging stations that have been installed in the past year. Everyone, even those who drive every day, will benefit when we adopt these transportation choices that  improve our air quality and reduce the number of bad air days we experience every spring.”

Rev. Andy Bell adds, “I am an adult with asthma who is extremely compliant with my meds. Thursday afternoon I was struggling to breath, and I didn’t understand why until I learned of the Air Pollution Advisory. I and many others don’t have the luxury of taking a full breath for granted. Clean air is life”. Rev. Bell is the Executive Director of Sunshine State Interfaith Power & Light, Inc. whose mission is to mobilize faith communities to address the climate crisis and to care for creation in Florida.