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Report: Regulations Improving Colorado's Air

National and state-based clean air policies, including reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants, are helping improve air quality in Colorado. (Pixabay)
National and state-based clean air policies, including reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants, are helping improve air quality in Colorado. (Pixabay)
April 20, 2017

DENVER -- Air quality in Colorado is getting better, according to the American Lung Association's latest report card.

Last year, Denver was ranked eighth most ozone-polluted city nationally. Now it’s the 11th. Fort Collins also dropped from tenth to 15th.

Dawn Mullally, director of air quality at the ALA’s Colorado chapter, said while some 125 million Americans continue to experience dangerous levels of air pollution, it's clear that rules limiting toxic emissions are paying off.

"The Clean Air Act - and the various regulations that have been the result of the Clean Air Act - have done a tremendous amount of good in terms of cleaning up our air quality and, as a result, making our public health better,” Mullally said.

She said she hopes the report sends a clear message to leaders that rules limiting the release of toxins and ensuring healthy air for all Americans need to be fully funded, implemented and enforced. In March, the Trump administration took steps to block the EPA's Clean Power Plan, designed to rein in pollution from coal-fired power plants, claiming it amounted to government overreach.

Mullally said that even though the state is making progress, residents still are exposed to high levels of pollution, which can put them at risk for asthma attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. She said children and teens are especially vulnerable.

"Because they tend to be outside more and their lungs are still developing,” Mullally said. "Also anyone who is 65 years and older, and people with existing lung diseases like asthma or COPD - it can easily worsen them."

She added that some Colorado counties saw bigger spikes in particulate pollution, largely due to longer wildfire seasons across the West. Mullally said these tiny particles - from forest fires, power plants and diesel engines - lodge deep in the lungs and can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO