First the Good News
A recent article published in the Birmingham News on June 25, 2012 indicates that Birmingham may be meeting EPA air quality standards, based on updated air quality data from 2011, contrary to assertions made recently by U.S. EPA’s top air official. Despite this improvement, clean air advocates argue that scientific evidence of the consequences of air pollution are more widely understood and that tougher standards are needed to protect health. The American Lung Association still ranks Birmingham No. 12 in the country for fine particle pollution. Several reasons for the decrease in particulate matter may have come from the decline of industrial production resulting from the economic downturn/plant closures, and cleaner burning motor vehicles, not to mention the installation of additional pollution controls at three coal-fired power plants in the Birmingham area.
And Now the Statistics We Aren’t Proud Of
The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report for 2011 ranked the Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman metropolitan statistical area:
- 21st of 277 metropolitan areas for high ozone days
- 8th of 277 for 24-hour particle pollution (such as silica, asbestos and airborne matter released in coal mining)
- 8th of 277 for annual particle pollution
New Report - Cause for Hope?
The American Lung Association “State of the Air 2012” report states that among 26 cities with the worst short-term levels of particle pollution, thirteen cities improved in 2008-2010, and one--Birmingham, AL-- that had been on the list since the list began, moved off the list entirely. While this may seem like real progress, the short-term particle pollution measure looks at the number of spikes in particle levels that occur in a year. These spikes can last hours or days, and can be dangerous or deadly, according to the report. So residents of Birmingham and surrounding areas must not let up their guard.
The report also notes that Birmingham has improved enough to drop off the top 25 list of cities with the highest number of days with high particle levels.
Click here to view the current American Lung Association report for Jefferson county.
Bad Press Still Haunts Us
Forbes magazine ranked Alabama as the 48th “least green” state in the country for air pollution, and 7th on its list of “Worst Cities for Year-Round Particle Pollution.” To read these Forbes articles, go to:
Moving Forward – The Birmingham Clean Air Initiative
UAB has now joined forces with a coalition of public interest groups and community leaders in a broad effort to bring together researchers and educators from a variety of disciplines to collaborate on ways to decrease pollution and protect and educate the public. Through a gift of seed money to UAB and matching funds from the School of Medicine, UAB is doing just that. The seed money gift has bolstered the development of the Environmental and Translational Medicine Program, and the establishment of the Environmental and Occupational Disease Clinic in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine. The program is headed by Dr. Veena B. Antony a nationally recognized expert in occupational lung diseases, who was recruited from the University of Florida to expand UAB’s research and clinical programs in environmental health.
Birmingham Clean Air Initiative Partners
Groups joining the Birmingham Clean Air Initiative include: