- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2005


Air quality in the Washington region gets an F — for filthy.

In its State of the Air report released yesterday, the American Lung Association said nearly 8 million people in the area breathe dangerously high levels of pollution — mostly from diesel trucks, buses and cars.

For the American Lung Association, cleaner air goes beyond just an environmental issue. It reports 168,000 children and 470,000 adults in the area suffer from asthma. Those with bronchitis, emphysema and diabetes also face health risks from higher levels of particulate pollution.

Officials say the health of hundreds of thousands of residents should be motivation enough to change pollution laws and driving habits. But if not, they say, consider the cost.

“I challenge you to visit any emergency room in this region,” said Dr. Bailus Walker, a member of the American Lung Association board. “You’ll find a large number of people are there for respiratory reasons.”

Fairfax County Supervisor Dana Kauffman, who also heads the region’s Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee, agrees that more can be done to improve air quality.

But he also sees the bright side, saying local air quality is better than 10 years ago, despite an increase in population.

“I acknowledge the glass from many perspectives is half empty, but because of our concerted efforts, the glass is also half full,” Mr. Kauffman said.

Mr. Kauffman said on code-red days in the region, when the air quality is considered unhealthy, much of the pollution causing the problem is blowing in from power plants in the Ohio River Valley. He said changes to crack down on those power plants are a federal issue.

The air quality panel also is looking at idling laws like the one in the District that makes it illegal to let a vehicle idle for more than three minutes.

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