Clean air group says Denver, Fort Collins improving on ozone
Posted 2:48 p.m. Wednesday
DENVER — Ozone pollution has improved in Denver and Fort Collins, but both cities remain among the 15 worst in the nation, the American Lung Association said.
Denver had the 11th-worst ozone levels and Fort Collins had the 15th-worst, the association said in its 2017 clean air report released late Tuesday.
Last year, Denver was eighth and Fort Collins 10th.
Ozone can be harmful to people with respiratory problems and other vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly. People who are active outdoors can also suffer.
The report gave 12 Colorado counties a grade of D or F for the number of high ozone days. Ten of those counties are on the Front Range or in nearby foothills.
Denver and the northern Front Range have long struggled to meet federal ozone standards.
The American Lung Association said Colorado's ozone problem has multiple causes, including vehicle exhaust, the oil and gas industry, trees, coal-burning power plants and weather conditions. Some of Colorado's ozone drifts in from out of state.
Nationwide, ozone levels and year-round particle pollution have declined since the association's 2016 report, but short-term spikes in particulate pollution increased.
Denver's short-term particulate pollution also worsened, the report said.
Colorado officials were reviewing the report but questioned some of the methodology, said Jeremy Neustifter, a spokesman for the Department of Public Health and Environment.
The report gave some counties a failing grade even if they met federal standards, Neustifter said. And the report assumes everyone in a county is exposed to the highest level of ozone recorded, even if most residents don't travel to the site where the worst concentrations were found, he said.
The report used data from 2013 to 2015 gathered from federal, tribal, state and county agencies. The association said it was the most recent verified data available.
Residents of most U.S. cities can breathe easier than people in some other parts of the world. Last August, Mexico City issued an alert after ozone levels hit more than 150 percent of acceptable levels. In December, Beijing issued a warning when particulate pollution reached more than 15 times the safe level.
Dawn Mullally, director of air quality and transportation for the American Lung Association in Colorado, said Denver has made great strides over several decades.
"We've come a long way since the smoggy days of the 1970s," she said.
Mullally said regulations under the federal Clean Air Act shouldn't be relaxed.
"This is the air we breathe. We must protect it," she said.
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