Report finds air quality declining in Marion County

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A new report finds the Indianapolis metro area earning a failing grade for its air quality.

The American Lung Association "State of the Air 2013" Report says Indianapolis is tied for 19th in the country for short term particle pollution. It also found that Marion County is tied for 24th most polluted county in the nation for annual particle pollution, and it violated the 2012 annual particle pollution standard in 2009-2011.

Indy metro got an "F" on the report for short-term particle pollution because of too many days of unhealthy particle levels. Particle pollution levels can spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end or remain at unhealthy levels on average every day.

Exposure to that type of pollution can aggravate existing health conditions, triggering asthma attacks and, over the long term, it can cause reduced lung function and chronic bronchitis. It can also cause arrhythmias or heart attacks in people with heart disease.

Marion County's grade for ozone went down from a "C" to a "D" last year. Ozone, also known as smog, is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. When it's inhaled, it irritates the lungs like a bad sunburn. It can cause immediate health problems that continue days later. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death.

There is some good news in the report. Marion County's air has improved overall compared to when the first State of the Air report came out 14 years ago, but the American Lung Association says Indianapolis still has a long way to go.

The report says nearly 132 million people in the United States are exposed to unhealthy pollution levels in the counties they live in. That's about 42 percent of the population. Infants, children, older adults and anyone with existing health conditions are most at risk from the adverse effects of air pollution.

New limits on annual levels of particle pollution were announced by the Environmental Protection Agency last December. The American Lung Association says those standards help reduce air pollution, along with emission reductions from coal-fired power plants and the transition to cleaner diesel fuels and engines.

State of the Air