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Dayton's Air Improves, But Still Among Most Polluted US Cities

The air quality in the Dayton region received poor marks from the American Lung Association. A recent study ranked the area  24th in the nation for what’s called year round particle pollution. But as WYSO’s Emily McCord reports, the report may be misleading.

Particle Pollution is a mix of liquid and tiny solid particles in the air that can get trapped in the lungs when you breathe. It can cause health problems, and that’s one of the reason the American Lung Association monitors it. This year, the Dayton area received failing marks on its particle pollution in the air.

"You know, somebody may look at it as say ‘Oh, it’s getting worse’. Well, it’s really not. Standards are changing. They’re tightening. They’re trying to make things more protective of health," says Brian Huxtable, with the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency.

Huxtable says the Environmental Protection Agency lowered the threshold for particle pollution, so Dayton earns the distinction even though the problem is improving. When standards change, tighter regulations follow, which Huxtable says is a good thing because there’s only so much the region can do to clean its air, since a lot of pollution comes from other places.

"And that’s why the national measure are so important because it can address controls on something in another state because we want to clean the air that also comes into the area. We don’t fully contribute to the quality of our air. It’s what’s happening downwind of us as well," says Huxtable.

But Dayton’s air is comparatively worse than a lot of other places in the county. The area sits on the Ohio River Valley, and Huxtable says pollution from nearby coal fired power plants impacts air quality. He adds another measure of air quality, ozone pollution, is getting worse here. Huxtable expects that the EPA will tighten those standards as well, and next year, Dayton will likely continue to rank high on more of these most polluted cities lists.