WASHINGTON, D. C. (Monday, September 24, 2012) – Incredibly, it was only the third hottest summer on record in the Washington metro area. The oppressively hot weather back in June and July (the second hottest on record) made overheated Washington area residents perspire profusely. Despite this, they could breathe a sigh of relief because the overall number of ozone exceedance days, an indicator of the exposure of urban populations to air pollution, was at its lowest level in the Greater Washington Metropolitan area since 2009. That’s according to recent data from Clean Air Partners.
Although the area was scorched when the temperature high hit 90 degrees at least on 52 days, and it stewed in eight 100-degree days, the region only recorded 19 ozone exceedance days during the 2012 Ozone Season. That breaks down to three Code Red alert days and just 16 Code Orange days so far this year.
This compares to 21 ozone exeedance days during the 2011 Ozone Season, for a total of two Code Red alert days and 19 Code Orange alert days. 2011 was the second hottest summer on record. In contrast, the region racked up 33 ozone exeedance days a year earlier in 2010, when officials issued three Code Red advisories and 30 Code Orange alerts, notes Clean Air Partners. Of note, the region sweltered in 67 days in the 90s during 2010, the hottest summer on record, tying a record set in 1980.
"It appears we are getting hotter and hotter summers. After all, the last three summers are the three hottest on record. But our Ozone (O3) levels are getting lower and lower," said Mahlon G. (Lon) Anderson, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs. "Here’s the upshot: despite having more cars and vehicles on area roads (3.5 million registered vehicles, all told), Washingtonians are being exposed to far less ozone pollution, a serious health and economic concern."
Code Red days and Code Orange days signal a significant threat of unhealthy air to sensitive populations, including asthmatics, due to pollution and weather conditions.
"Code Red Days can mean more asthma attacks for children, increases in cardiovascular disease and breathing problems for adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)," explained Rolando Andrewn, President of Breathe DC, a member of Clean Air Partners.
Asthma alone costs the United States $56 billion each year, including 10.5 million missed days of school and 14.2 million missed days of work. An estimated 44,405 adults and 13,381 children in the District of Columbia suffer from asthma, as of 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC).
The improvements in the region’s air quality have not occurred by happenstance or by chance. The region is benefiting from the most stringent power plant emissions control on the East Coast, resulting in dramatic reductions in power plant emissions that cause ozone producing pollutants.
"Our air quality is improving as a direct result of State and regional control efforts such as Maryland’s Healthy Air Act and the Clean Cars Program," said Maryland Department of the Environment Deputy Secretary Kathy Kinsey. "Looking to the future, implementation of many of the strategies contained in the State's proposed Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan will also significantly benefit air quality. Unfortunately, these climate-induced higher temperatures make our efforts to improve air quality even more challenging."
Still, the evidence from Clean Air Partners shows a significant reduction in the amount of pollution caused by automobiles in the Washington metro region. That’s a major milestone, since the current ozone standards are more stringent than ever before. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards and tracks the number of ozone exceedances.
"While we have seen tremendous improvements in our region’s air quality, we still experienced nearly a month’s worth of unhealthy air quality days so far this year," said Jen Desimone, Senior Environmental Planner at Clean Air Partners, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. "We must continue to pursue efforts to reduce emissions and improve our region’s air quality to protect public health and the environment."
Even so, a recent study by the National Climactic Data Center (NCDC) – a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – backs up what many believe. As it turns out, the period of January through July of this year was one of the warmest periods since 1895 when records were first kept.
Clean Air Partners is a unique public-private partnership that educates residents of the Baltimore and Washington regions about the health dangers of air pollution. More than 5,000 employers, individuals and businesses are registered as Clean Air Partners and have committed to take voluntary actions to improve air quality.
AAA Mid-Atlantic advocates on behalf of its nearly four million members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It provides a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through its 56 retail branches, regional operations centers, and the Internet. For more information, please visit our web site at www.AAA.com.