Midstate counties get F’s for air quality

The Midstate is full of natural beauty and picturesque spots. Crisp and clear blue skies can be seen over the Capitol and above rolling farmland across the region.

Free from the hustle and bustle of big cities, the air should be free from pollution.

“I think the air quality is pretty good compared to a lot of places,” said Camp Hill’s Ken Schenck as bicycled on Harrisburg’s City Island.

No doubt a lot of Midstaters think that, and they’d be wrong, according to a new report card released by the American Lung Association.

For ozone levels, Dauphin, Lancaster and York all get F’s.

For fine particulates, Cumberland, Lancaster and York all flunked.

“That does surprise me,” Schenck said. “Very much so.”

Overall, York County’s air is the worst in the region. Debbie Hammond lives in Fairview Township. “Not too pleased with that,” Hammond said. “You want to be outside and you can’t if the air quality is that bad.”

For its report card, the Lung Association analyzes data from the federal Environmental Protection Agency over three year cycles, in this case 2010-12. Ten bad air days over that three year period will earn a county an F.

“We want people to know that air pollution exists and its bad for health,” said Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health for ALA. “It kills people. We also want people to know there are things they can do in their daily lives, and in respect to national policy, that can help clean up the air.”

Things like driving fuel-efficient cars that are well tuned and maintained to reduce pollution. Turning off electrical switches also helps, Stewart said. He also encourages Midstaters to complain to lawmakers about the poor quality of the air in the region.

“I would never have guessed it,” said Marnie Aylesworth of Enola. “That’s very shocking and it’s upsetting.”

Stewart concedes most Midstaters don’t notice fine particulates and ozone problems. But he worries about those with lung diseases (asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema), heart disease, diabetes, children and seniors. He adds that the air we breathe is not all home-grown.

“The Baltimore-Washington air pollution comes up from below and it comes from the west, the Ohio Valley, from coal-fired power plants.”

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