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Maine’s Air: The Good, The Bad And The Asthma

PHOTO: Bangor is ranked as one of the cleanest cities for air pollution in the country in a new analysis by the American Lung Association. Portland received a poorer grade. Photo credit: Wikipedia.
PHOTO: Bangor is ranked as one of the cleanest cities for air pollution in the country in a new analysis by the American Lung Association. Portland received a poorer grade. Photo credit: Wikipedia.
May 1, 2014

PORTLAND, Maine – The news for Maine is both good and bad in the latest State of the Air report released by the American Lung Association.

The figures are the most current quality-assured nationwide data on levels of ozone and particle pollution.

Bangor ranked among the four cleanest cities in the nation.

Dr. Marguerite Pennoyer, a board member of the American Lung Association in Maine, says Bangor experienced no unhealthy air days for ozone or particulates during the cycle involved.

"In contrast, Cumberland and York County, our southern parts of the state, had 14 days of unhealthy ozone levels," she relates.

Cumberland got a grade of C, York a D, while Penobscot County received an A.

The report shows the nation's air quality worsened in 2010-2012, but overall is cleaner than a decade ago.

According to the Division of Population Health, Maine has some of the highest rates of asthma in the country.

Approximately 10 percent of Maine adults currently have asthma compared to 7.8 percent nationally. Pennoyer treats many of them.

"Anyone who deals with respiratory disease in Maine can tell you that any time we have poor air quality days the number of calls, the number of emergency department visits increase," she says.

Janice Nolen of the American Lung Association says she's concerned about climate change and how a warmer planet is going to affect air quality.

"If you've got more heat and that's what we're seeing with climate change, you're going to have more ozone, you're going to have the likelihood that you are going to have higher levels than you would otherwise,” she says. “And it's going to make it harder to clean up, and make it more challenging for us to reduce the ozone that we've got."

Pennoyer points out part of the problem for Maine starts to the west and south.

"We are the tail-pipe of New England, and with all these beautiful Down East winds we get everything from the Midwest on over,” she explains. “So we really do see more than our fair share and much of it not produced here."



Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME