This week, Baltimore received the dubious distinction of being named the smoggiest large metropolitan area in the East in 2010 and the third smoggiest in the nation after Los Angeles. Obviously, data is incomplete for 2011, but so far, we're running fourth behind Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Fresno, CA.
The designation came courtesy of a new report by Environment Maryland. The full report can be found here.
The results were found by tabulating the "number of days that smog pollution levels exceeded the 2008 national ozone standard for the calendar year 2010 and for 2011." In other words, the days when there was a color-coded air-quality alert in effect. Baltimore experienced 33 smog days in 2010, six of which were "red alert" days. So far in 2011, Baltimore has experienced 28 smog days, seven of which were "red alerts."
Unfortunately, most scientists agree that the national ozone standards, which were set by the EPA in 2008, are too lax, meaning that many dangerously smoggy days go by without alerts being activated. Using this more restrictive criteria, Baltimore experienced 50 unhealthy air days in 2010. Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced that it would not update the national ozone standard until 2013.
Smog, or ground-level ozone, comes from many sources including transportation exhaust, power plant discharge, industrial processes, and solvent use. Health issues connected to air pollution include increased risk and severity of asthma attacks, pneumonia, and other respiratory ailments. Scientists recommend transitioning away from fossil-fuel based economy and more stringent restrictions.