A new environmental report grades Iowa’s cities and counties on the quality of their air based on two types of pollution which threaten life and health. Micki Sandquist, executive director of the American Lung Association in Iowa, says the agency’s “State of the Air” report singled out five counties where there are traditionally air quality concerns.
Four of the five got perfect “A” grades for high ozone days. “Ozone is a gas that becomes dangerous with the right combination of heat and sunlight and it’s more likely to be blown in as it cooks under the right conditions,” Sandquist says.
“We think the high ozone days are great and we’re excited by that.” The five counties, Clinton, Muscatine, Scott, Linn and Polk, did not fare well with the second focus area of particle pollution. Four of the counties got “F” grades, and the fifth got a “D.”
“Particle pollution is a microscopic mix of solids that are more likely to come from local sources and they stay where the source is,” Sandquist says. “So it can be the local industries, the coal-fired power plants, diesel exhaust — they stay local, they’re not blown out like the ozone is.”
The report found two areas of eastern Iowa rank in the nation’s top 25 problem zones for short-term or year-round particle pollution — Davenport and nearby Muscatine County. Ironically, Davenport was also on the list of the country’s cleanest cities for ozone pollution, along with: Boone, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Waterloo-Cedar Falls.
Overall, Sandquist says the report shows conditions are generally improving in Iowa and that the Clean Air Act is working. She says standards set under the legislation are driving the trend toward cleaner air — things like the cleanup of coal-fired power plants, the conversion of fleets to cleaner diesel engines and cleaner SUVs. Iowans can take action, too.
“Individuals can protect themselves by driving less, walking, biking and carpooling,” Sandquist says. “They can also use less electricity by turning off the lights when they’re not in the rooms or refrain from burning wood or trash, and encouraging their local school systems to use clean school buses.”