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Delaware gets failing grade for ozone in new air quality report

Delaware Public Media

Ozone remains an issue in the First State according to the new American Lung Association “State of the Air” report.

For a seventh straight year, Delaware received an “F” for its number high ozone days. All three Delaware counties also received an “F” in that category – which tracks the number times ozone reaches high levels on hot, sunny days.

Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, says those high ozone days have very real health consequences

“It’s been likened to sort of giving your lungs a bad sunburn because your tissue gets red, inflamed, swollen and it can cause health problems that are immediate," said Stewart. "People have problems breathing immediately.  They can have wheezing and coughing episodes.  Asthma attacks can cause people to need medication or send them to the emergency room or hospital.”

The state did get passing grades for its levels of particulate pollution.  New Castle County received a “C” up from a “D” a year ago – while Kent and Sussex counties both received “A’s.”

"Delaware can certainly be proud of the progress we've made in cleaning up our air since the first 'State of the Air' report 16 years ago," said Deborah Brown, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. "However, there's still a lot of work to be done to make our air healthy for all of us to breathe.

State officials have argued in recent years that Delaware has made great progress in reducing in-state emissions, and that about 90 percent of ozone causing pollution comes from out-of state sources.

Stewart agrees that is a very real problem for the First State.

“We certainly support the idea of controlling air pollution regionally because the only way Delaware can really finally solve the problem of high ozone levels, even though its been making progress long-term, is if it has the cooperation of upwind emitters," said Stewart.

Stewart adds he is hopeful the EPA’s Cross State Pollution rule, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, will help Delaware’s cause.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for nearly three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.