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Parkersburg News and Sentinel: Pollution

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — From the pages of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel:

Remember the last time you had to roll up your car windows because you were driving through a Mid-Ohio Valley town where the air was so polluted it brought tears to your eyes? Neither do we.

At one time, half a century and more ago, air pollution was a self-evident danger to public health in our area. Many local residents remember how bad it was.

But that has changed dramatically and for the better, as a report released this week by the American Lung Association details. It indicates air quality throughout West Virginia continues to improve.

Challenges remain to be overcome, according to the association. Deborah Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, said results of the organization’s nationwide study indicate “there’s still a lot of work to be done to make (West Virginia’s) air healthy for all of us to breathe.”

That appears to be so primarily for those who already suffer from lung ailments and vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly – and not even them most of the time.

Consider a few items from the association report, which includes statistics on particulate and ozone pollution:

* In terms of particulates in the air, Wood County received an “A” grade from the association, while data was not even collected for Wirt, Pleasants, Ritchie, Tyler and Jackson counties.

* Grades were worse for ozone pollution, on the other hand, merely passing – a “C” for Wood County. Again, no data was deemed necessary for collection in the other counties. For comparison, Hamilton County, Ohio, (Cincinnati) received an “F” grade.

But consider the frequency with which pollution reached levels of concern. During 2014, Wood County had five days during which ozone levels were deemed “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

Out of last year’s 365 days, that is not a bad record. Not bad at all. Hamilton County had 32 ozone days deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups, and three days deemed simply “unhealthy.”

Of course, as the association points out, work remains to be done to ensure our air is healthy all the time for everyone. But that needs to be considered in context – which for Mid-Ohio Valley residents is an atmosphere so improved many older people at one time could not have imagined it.

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