Bangor ranked 23rd in the country for its low level of particulate pollutants in the air but dropped from the list of the country’s cleanest cities for ozone, or smog, pollution.
The rankings from the American Lung Association show statewide that particle pollution in the air either decreased or remained low — with all counties getting an ‘A’ grade — while ozone pollution increased, particularly in southern and coastal counties, the report said.
The annual report card looks at the number of days in which ozone and particulate levels in the air are deemed unhealthful for humans over the past three years, by current Environmental Protection Agency standards.
York County had the worst ranking in the state for ozone pollution, with 10 days of unhealthy ozone levels. Cumberland had six during that period, followed by Knox with four and Hancock with three. Penobscot County had one unhealthful ozone day in 2013, up from the previous year.
Sue Patterson, director of the Choose To Be Healthy Coalition, which is affiliated with York Hospital in the town of York, said the ‘F’ ranking for York County on ozone is a concern.
“We will certainly continue to do everything we can across our region to improve air quality. But in York County we are on the front lines of unhealthy air blowing in from states to the south and west of us,” Patterson said in a prepared statement.
Patterson and the American Lung Association called for the EPA to make its ozone quality standards stricter, for the country to adopt the EPA’s proposal for reducing power plant emissions and to maintain EPA funding to monitor air pollution.
Ozone pollution, or smog, the report said, is the result of a reaction between warm air and sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources that can cause asthma and irritation in the lungs.
Particle pollution comes directly from sources like car exhaust, wood fires, coal-fired power plants and other sources and can also cause asthma in addition to heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer, the association said.