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Air Pollution Still Plagues Major Cities With BC-Ozone Table, BC-Carbon Monoxide Table

August 16, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ More than half the U.S. population still lives in cities plagued by too much smog, and one third in areas with dangerously high carbon monoxide, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

Most major cities - 119 in all - flunked air quality checks for at least several days during the past three years, and some such as Los Angeles and New York failed much more frequently, the EPA said..

Eighteen cities violated standards for both smog and carbon monoxide, meaning in most cases they have major pollution problems in both summer and winter months.

″These lists demonstrate the magnitude of the air pollution problem still remaining in this country,″ said EPA Deputy Administrator F. Henry Habicht.

The total number of cities was down five from last year, taking into account cities added to or dropped from the lists.

But Habicht said 133 million people still live in areas exceeding the smog standard and almost 78 million are in areas that are over the carbon monoxide limit.

The EPA listed 96 areas where monitoring of the air showed that smog, or ozone, levels were too high more than three times since 1987. Anything over 0.12 parts per million is considered a violation of federal standards. The lists didn’t say how far over that level the cities went.

The worst area, at least from the standpoint of number of days of violation, was the Los Angeles-Anaheim-Riverside area of California, with 137 days, followed by Bakersfield, Calif., with 44 days and New York City with 17.

Another list included 41 areas where carbon monoxide levels exceeded the limit of 9 parts per million on two or more days in either 1988 or 1989.

Los Angeles led again, with 71 days, followed by Spokane, Wash., with 37 days, Oshkosh, Wis., with 32, the area of Steubenville, Ohio and Weirton, W.Va., with 31, and then New York and Las Vegas, Nev., with 26.

Smog is primarily a summertime problem, caused by the interaction of the more intense sunlight with chemicals in the air. Carbon monoxide becomes more difficult to control in the winter when temperature inversions keep more pollutants in the lower atmosphere.

Both can cause health problems, ranging from eye irritation to heart ailments.

″Most major cities in this country are still not meeting at least one of these standards,″ said Warren Freas, spokesman for the EPA’s air quality office.

The lists, which include complex data on the degree to which each area is violating the standards, are used by the EPA to determine whether state clean air plans can be approved or if new actions must be taken. These can include requirements for increased automobile inspections or less-polluting gasoline mixtures.

The EPA said it would use the lists to determine any new requirements that cities must meet under the Clean Air Act being worked out by a House-Senate conference committee.

The 18 areas on both lists include the nation’s largest urban areas. More than a third are in California: Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, Fresno, Modesto, Sacramento, San Diego and Stockton.

The others are New York; Boston; Hartford, Conn.; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Washington; Greensboro-Winston Salem, N.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Cleveland and El Paso, Texas.

Eight areas were dropped from the smog list from last year: Columbia, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla., Lafayette, Ind.; Phoenix; Huntsville, Ala.; Anderson, S.C.; Tulsa, Okla., and Portland, Ore. Three were added: Smyth County, Va.; the Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol area in Tennessee and Virginia, and Evansville, Ind.

Seven areas are newly meeting carbon monoxide standards: Manchester, N.H.; Oklahoma City; St. Louis; Great Falls, Mont.; Greeley, Colo.; Salt Lake City, and Yakima, Wash.

New to the list of violators: Syracuse, N.Y.; Philadelphia; Duluth, Minn.; and Stockton, Calif.