BALTIMORE, MD (October 6, 2006) – High temperatures, plenty of sun - just the type of weather that would normally be associated with unhealthful pollution levels throughout the densely populated state of Maryland. Fortunately, despite a very hot 2006 summer season, Maryland’s air quality marked a continued trend in fewer days where ground level ozone pollution posed a significant health risk. In the State of Maryland between 2003 and 2006,Maryland experienced nearly 50% fewer days of unhealthy air pollution. There were only 20 days this summer when ozone levels surpassed federal limits. Compared to summers that experienced similar weather, this is a significant improvement. In 2005 there were 28 days, and in 2002 there were 39 days when the ozone standard was exceeded.
“When we see summer days above 90°F, we would normally experience widespread ozone pollution in the region,” explains Tad Aburn, director of the Air and Radiation Management Administration with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). “But this is not the case anymore. In recent years, ozone episodes have been much less frequent, shorter in duration, and smaller in their footprint.”
The combination of nitrogen oxide (NOx) volatile organic compounds, hot, stagnant and sunny weather lead to the formation of ground level ozone. Ground-level ozone is Maryland’s most pervasive summertime air pollutant and is strongly associated with high temperatures. Some of the improvements can be attributed to cool, wet summers like those experienced in 2003 and 2004. However, significant reductions in power plant, automobile and truck pollution in 2003 to 2005 timeframe are the main reason for the improvements. These recent regional and local air pollution controls have helped to improve monitored levels of ozone pollution. In 2003, the first round of NOx reductions at power plants went into effect through a federal program known as the NOx SIP Call. Additional NOx controls for automobiles have been phased in as part of the federal motor vehicle control program. Recent new measures controlling the amount of pollution produced by consumer products and paint manufacturers have also aided in improving our air quality.
“It’s very rewarding to see the air pollution control programs we’ve all fought so hard for working. Even more important, it’s absolutely great to see Maryland’s citizens getting cleaner air each year,” said Steve Peregoy, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of Maryland. “We have to hold the line and keep pushing with new control programs like the Healthy Air Act to bring the State into full compliance.”
Maryland still has significant air quality challenges ahead and is striving to work hard to meet these challenges and bring healthy air to the citizens of Maryland. Federal standards for air pollution were tightened in 2005 and require even more aggressive pollution controls to bring the State into compliance by the 2010 deadline. There is even some good news here. In the early 1990s every single monitor in Maryland exceeded the ozone standard. In 2005, when the new standards became effective only 6 of Maryland’s 13 ozone monitors were recording levels above the new standard. The Healthy Air Act, which was signed into law by Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. on April 6, 2006, will dramatically reduce power plant emissions in Maryland. The Healthy Air Act is the toughest power plant emission law on the East Coast and the emission reductions generated by this law will help Maryland plan for attaining the new air pollution standards.
“The Healthy Air Act is the key to bringing Maryland into compliance with new federal ozone and fine particulate air quality standards by 2010 and will also help clean up the Chesapeake Bay,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “Maryland continues to be a national leader in air quality.”
For more information about air quality in Maryland, visit MDE’s website at: mde.maryland.gov/programs/Air/MobileSources/Pages/DieselVehicleEmissionsControlProgram.aspx. For more information about the Healthy Air Act, visit: mde.maryland.gov/programs/Air/Pages/MD_HAA.aspx.