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The Suburbanite
  • Some progress, but Stark's 'State of the Air' still fails

  • The American Lung Association continues to give Stark and Canton-Massillon metro area a failing grade.

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  • The Canton-Massillon area made “great strides” on the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2013” report card, but still received an “F” because of high levels of smog and particle pollution.
    The report found smog, or ozone, levels to be the best in the area in the report’s 14-year history, helping it drop in rank from the 38th to the 50th most ozone-polluted area in the nation. The area’s worst years were from 1997 to 1999.
    Particle pollution remained high here. The Canton-Massillon metro area ranked 14th worst in the U.S. – the best recorded here by the American Lung Association. Stark County ranked 18th among the top 25 counties in the U.S. for people at risk by year-round particle pollution.
    Grades were given to 277 metropolitan areas and large counties throughout the U.S. Here’s what the report says for the Canton-Massillon area and Stark County:
    • Among the 33 Ohio counties where data was collected, 13 received failing grades while only four were given a “B.” None of the counties received an “A.”
    • Stark County had 16 days when ozone conditions were unhealthy for sensitive populations. That’s 23 fewer days than the county had in 1996.
    • In addition to its “F” on smog levels and a failing grade for annual particle pollution, Stark received a “D” for 24-hour particle pollution.  
    • Among 277 metropolitan areas, Canton-Massillon ranked 50th for high-ozone days, 42nd for 24-hour particle pollution and 14th for annual particle pollution.
    At-risk population groups in Stark County include those suffering from pediatric asthma (8,456), adult asthma (28,303), cardiovascular disease (109,350), diabetes (31,269), children under 18 (84,269) and adults over 65 (61,972).
    “The air in the Canton area is certainly cleaner than when we started the ‘State of the Air’ report 14 years ago,” Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio, said in a prepared statement. “But the work is not done, and we must set stronger health standards for pollutants and clean up sources of pollution in the Canton area to protect the health of our citizens.”
    Canton Health Department’s Air Pollution Control Administrator Terri Dzienis said the report’s results are “open to interpretation.”
    Dzienis said the area is currently meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As a sign of improving air quality, the Ohio EPA petitioned the federal agency to change Stark’s status from non-attainment to attainment last year.
    “It’s important to point out a distinction,” she said. “This is the American Lung Association and they have standards of what their air quality should be and they are different from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards. I’m glad they recognize that it is improving, but the ‘F’ in the report is compared to their standard. If you look at the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, we are currently meeting that.”