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Report: Tucson 6th best in air quality

Citizen Staff Writer



Feel free to take a deep breath of fresh air.

Tucson again ranks among the best in the nation when it comes to air quality, according to the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air: 2009″ report.

The report, released Wednesday, ranks the best and worst cities and counties based on ozone and particle pollution.

Tucson ranks sixth best in the nation based on levels of long-term particle pollution, the amount of dust, soot and other matter found in the air annually. The city ranks among the top 24 nationwide based on a measure of particle pollution over a 24-hour period.

By contrast, the air quality in Phoenix ranks among the nation’s worst – ninth out of the top 25 for ozone pollution.

For the last several years, Tucson routinely has ranked near the top of the Lung Association’s clean-cities list.

But ozone levels throughout Pima County could pose a greater risk in the years to come, the report cautions.

From 2005 to 2007, county ozone monitors reported above-normal levels on 17 days.

In March 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency increased its standards for ozone pollution, reflected in Pima County’s failing grade in the report. “It’s a pretty strict grading scale,” Pima County Department Environmental Quality Director Ursula Kramer said.

Five of 11 Arizona counties monitored for air pollution received failing grades for ozone levels.

Ozone molecules consist of three oxygen atoms that irritate the lungs when inhaled.

“Oxidants (like ozone) are bad for the body,” said Keith Kaback, chairman of the American Lung Association of Arizona board and a doctor at Tucson Medical Center.

High-ozone days can exacerbate respiratory conditions as well as harm those who work or exercise outdoors.

While the region meets EPA standards for clean air, Kramer said, residents could reduce pollution by taking mass transit, driving less and decreasing energy use.


• For the full air quality report, go to www.lungusa.org.

• PDEQ posts hourly pollution measurements online at www.airinfonow.org.

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