The Hagerstown area ranks among the smoggiest communities of its size in the country, according to a report based on Environmental Protection Administration data released this week by the advocacy group Environment Maryland.
Hagerstown ranked 11th on the list of Smoggiest Small Metropolitan Areas in 2010, according to "Danger in the Air: Unhealthy Air Days in 2010 and 2011."
The city and surrounding area had five "smog days" in 2010 where ozone exceeded 75 parts per billion (ppb), the EPA standard, said Ewa Krason, a field organizer and spokeswoman for Environment Maryland.
Environmental advocacy groups in other states — such as Environment Virginia and PennEnvironment in Pennsylvania — released similar reports Tuesday.
The highest level of ozone for any day in 2010 in Hagerstown was 90 ppb, the Environment Maryland report stated.
"The primary one is ozone that we are tracking," Krason said of the pollutant. "Ozone is known to make breathing difficult on red alert days," even for normally healthy people, she said.
The five worst areas for smog in 2010 — regardless of population — were in California, topped by the Riverside-San Bernadino area with 110 smog days, including 24 red-alert days and two purple-alert days, the report stated. Purple-alert days are those on which the levels of pollutants are so high that people are advised to limit outdoor activity and unhealthy people are advised to stay indoors, according to the EPA.
Baltimore has the worst smog on the East Coast, coming in at No. 6 nationally with 33 smog days and six red-alert days. Its highest daily reading last year hit 115 ppb. The Washington, D.C., area ranked seventh nationally, it said.
The main generators of pollution are vehicles, industrial facilities and power plants, "however, a lot of our smog pollution is coming from out of state," carried here from industrial areas in states to the west by prevailing wind patterns, Krason said.
Krason said her organization believes the current smog day standard of 75 ppb is too high.
"Environment Maryland wants a national health-based standard for smog pollution based on the latest scientific consensus from EPA scientists of 60-70 ppb," Krason wrote in an e-mail.
Reaching that goal could prove difficult if an amended version of the Transparency In Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act is passed, Krason said. The bill — HR 2401 — passed Friday by a vote of 249-169 in the House of Representatives, with U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., voting in favor.
The TRAIN Act "would indefinitely delay two critical Clean Air Act standards that limit soot, smog, mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants," Krason wrote in an e-mail.
One proposed amendment "would stop EPA from relying on science alone when setting clean air standards," she wrote, while another "could delay critical Clean Air Act standards for eight years, if not indefinitely."
"Considering the impact of regulations by (the) EPA upon job creation and manufacturing in the United States ... the Train Act is common sense," Bartlett said in an email.
The Senate has not yet taken action.