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A Decade of Data on Smog: Just the facts

A Decade of Data on Smog: Just the facts

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September 02, 2009

Key facts:

* In 2008 the EPA dramatically tightened its standards for defining a high ozone day.


* Even under EPA’s more stringent new standard, North Carolina — both as a whole and within its major regions — has experienced significant reductions in the number of high ozone days.


* If the current trend continues, 2009 could experience the lowest number of high ozone days on record.



Author: Dr. Roy Cordato
September 02, 2009

Key facts:

* In 2008 the EPA dramatically tightened its standards for defining a high ozone day.


* Even under EPA’s more stringent new standard, North Carolina — both as a whole and within its major regions — has experienced significant reductions in the number of high ozone days.


* If the current trend continues, 2009 could experience the lowest number of high ozone days on record.



Author: Dr. Roy Cordato

More info:

Published by: John Locke Foundation on Dec 10, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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The John Locke Foundation
is a501(c)(3) nonprot, nonpartisan researchinstitute dedicated to improving public policy debate in North Carolina. Viewpoints expressed by authors do not necessarilyrefect those o the sta or board o the Locke Foundation.
200 W. Morgan, #200Raleigh, NC 27601
phone:
919-828-3876
ax:
919-821-5117www.johnlocke.org
d
spot
light
d
uring the hot summer months o June, July, and August, North Caro-linians have gotten used to hearing about “ozone alert days” on theirevening and morning radio and television newscasts. The purpose o these alerts is to warn citizens o a particular region that ground level ozonelevels, oten reerred to as smog, may exceed certain ederally determined stan-dards. These standards relate to atmospheric concentrations o ozone that areconsidered more or less sae or certain groups to breathe, usually the elderly,children, and people with respiratory problems.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pursuant to the ederal Clean Air Act, determines the threshold or those standards. The states and indi-vidual communities are responsible or developing plans or meeting the stan-dards.In 2008 the EPA put in place a new, more restrictive standard that denesa high ozone day, or in the parlance o the ederal and state bureaucracy, an“exeedance day.” According to the new standard, an exceedance day occurs i an ozone monitor registers a concentration level o .076 or greater parts permillion (ppm) in the atmosphere, sustained over an eight-hour period. Thereare currently 41 monitors across the state o North Carolina. The number o monitors has fuctuated over the years. Clearly, the more monitors a state has,the more likely it is that any one monitor will register an exceedance on anygiven day — ozone being a highly localized phenomena. Dierent states havedierent numbers o monitors. For that reason, comparisons among states thatdo not adjust or diering numbers o monitors are illegitimate and will always
No. 378 – September 2, 2009
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 Just the acts
key acts:• In 2008 h ePa drmill ighnd i ndrdor dfning  high ozon d.• evn undr ePa’ mor ringn nw ndrd, Norh crolin — boh  whol nd wihin i mjor rgion — h xprind ignifn rdu-ion in h numbr o high ozon d.• I h urrn rnd oninu, 2009 ould xprin h low numbr o high ozon d on rord.
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be biased against states with higher-than-average numbers o monitoring sites, such as North Carolina.Prior to 2008, the EPA standard was less stringent, although still quite restrictive. Between 1997 and 2008 thestandard was .085 ppm or more over an eight-hour period. The purpose o this
Spotlight
is simply to make availablesome consistent data that avoids apples-and-oranges comparisons between time periods that could occur because o the two dierent standards. The graphs on the ollowing pages show the number o high ozone days on an average, permonitor basis over a ten-year time period—1999-2008. All data have been put in terms o the new .076 ppm standard.The graphs show ozone inormation or the state as a whole, or the major metropolitan areas and the western moun-tains. These regions are dened by North Carolina Division o Air Quality. The maps o these regions with the locationo each ozone monitor are also pictured. This inormation is presented on a per-monitor basis because, as noted, thenumber o monitors across the state as well as within regions have changed over time. In other words, the numbersshown on each graph give the average per monitor either in the state or in a particular region or the year shown.Note that ozone levels are very localized even within metropolitan areas or regions. A monitor on one side o acounty or region could register an exceedance while, at the same time, a monitor a ew mile away may not. For thatreason, the data presented here should not be read as an indication o how the air quality has varied in your particularneighborhood or local community. As the regional maps indicate, monitors tend to be located ar apart. What can begleaned rom these data are trends and indications o better or worse years. What can easily be seen is that over thelast six years there has been a dramatic improvement in ozone levels across North Carolina. Air quality, at least withrespect to ozone, has been getting better, not worse. Also note that we are more than two-thirds o the way through the 2009 ozone season, which runs rom April 1through October. I current trends continue, 2009 could turn out to have the ewest number o high ozone days o anyyear on record. As o September 1, the entire state o North Carolina had reported only nine high ozone days registeredon ve dierent monitors over our days. This means that 36 o the 41 monitors across the state have not registered asingle exceedance as o this date.
 Dr. Roy Cordato is vice president or research and resident scholar at the
John Locke Foundation.
No nd Rrn
 All data in this paper were obtained rom the North Carolina Division o Air Quality web site,
http://daq.state.nc.us/monitor/data.
 The maps showing monitor locations can be ound at
http://daq.state.nc.us/airaware/ozone/monitors.
For more inormation on this topic, see Joel Schwartz, “Where the Bodies Are Buried: How experts or N.C.’s Attorney General misleadthe public about TVA air pollution risks” John Locke Foundation
 Policy Report
, June 2008,
http://www.johnlocke.org/policy_reports/display_story.html?id=171,
and Joel Schwartz, “The Health Eects o Air Pollution: Separating Science and Propaganda,” John LockeFoundation
 Policy Report
, May 2006,
http://www.johnlocke.org/policy_reports/display_story.html?id=70
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igur 1. swid High Ozon D Pr Monior, 1999-2008
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21.4713.8027.337.152.879.865.2612.004.9326.500.005.0010.0015.0020.0025.0030.0035.001999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
 

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