News Articles

Leah Hoenen

Air in Sussex County contains and unhealthy level of ozone, but a new report gives the county a passing grade for particle pollution.

The American Lung Association has released an annual report showing the rates of particle pollution and ozone haven't changed in the First State. Overall, Delaware air got a passing mark for year-round pollution, and Kent and Sussex counties were rated above average for short-term pollution.

With no change to pollution levels, the public health remains at risk, said Deb Brown, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic.

Released Wednesday, April 27, the report shows Delaware's three counties still have an "F" for ozone, but they pass for year-round particle pollution. Sussex and Kent counties received "B" for short-term particle pollution and both received a "pass" for annual particle pollution.

"Delaware's air pollution problem shows up in New Castle County, which received an "F" for short-term particle pollution, but passed for year-round particle pollution levels," the report reads.

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper said the report shows the Clean Air Act is still highly effective in improving the quality of air Delawareans and Americans breathe.

"Despite the considerable gains we have made to reduce air pollution in Delaware and across the nation, we have experienced alarming opposition to efforts to achieve cleaner, healthier air in recent months," Carper said. "For 40 years now, the EPA's clean air programs have consistently shown significant returns on investment by saving thousands of lives, saving millions of dollars in healthcare costs and creating many clean-air technology jobs for American workers," he said.

Bill Zak, chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Center for the Inland Bays, said pollution reductions in Delaware have been dramatic, with the conversion of the Edgemoor plant to natural gas combined with unit shutdowns and new pollution-reduction technology installed at the Indian River power plant.

"There are complicating features from particles that drift from the west from coal-generated plants," said Zak.

Brown said air pollution affects everyone, but most affected are children, older adults and those with diabetes, lung and heart disease and those living in poverty.

Particle pollution includes chemicals, metals, aerosols, ash, soot and more, the report says.

Since last year's report, smog has improved in all three Delaware counties, but the state still received an "F" for smog. Also called ozone, smog can cause wheezing, asthma, coughing and premature death, the report says.

The lung association says pollution from coal-fired power plants contributes substantially to ozone and particle pollution.

Of the top 25 polluted cities and regions, New Castle County, which is part of the Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland area, ranks 24th.

The State of the Air 2011 report grades cities and counties based in part on the color-coded air quality index developed by federal environmental officials. The report relied on data from the Environmental Protection Agency, collected from 2007 through 2009.

About half the nation lives in areas with dangerous levels of ozone and particle pollution.

The American Lung Association is online at lungusa.org. For more information call 1-800-LUNG-USA.