Friday, May 01, 2009

 

Cleveland's air quality improving

The American Lung Association came out with State of the Air this week, its annual air quality report card. It gave Cuyahoga County a grade of F in both ozone and particle pollution, and Cleveland-Akron-Elyria ranked 10th highest for people at risk from year-round particle pollution. However, despite these grades, the report noted that Cleveland showed significant, continued improvement over the past five years. We stand to continue improving as we recognize the effects that the built environment has on public health, and we give more consideration to these factors in urban planning decisions to improve air and water quality, safety, and other health factors.

Air pollution increases the risks for certain illnesses. According to the report, year round exposure to particle pollution has been linked to increased risks from asthma, lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Particle pollution poses higher risks to children and the elderly, and those with lung or heart diseases. It particularly increases risks for children living near roads with heavy truck or trailer traffic. The report also found disparities in who is exposed to the pollutants, with low-income and some minority groups having higher exposure. It included speculations from scientists about the reasons for the disparities, including racism and class bias in the housing market, lack of access to health care, grocery stores, and good jobs, dirtier workplaces, and higher exposure to traffic.

The report also provided recommendations on how to improve air quality including the use of federal transportation funds to retrofit diesel engines. Local planning decisions can also improve air quality by reducing the amount of miles we drive through mixed-use and denser development patterns, improved public transit, and the use of vegetation in land developments to purify the air.

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