Pollution and ragweed have made Ohio the worst state in the country for sneezing and wheezing from allergies and asthma, a report released Wednesday shows.
Seven Ohio cities — more than any other state — made the list of the 35 worst for sneezing and wheezing in the country, according to the study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
And the watery, itchy eyes and respiratory issues are only going to get worse — especially for children, who can be more affected by these illnesses than adults — unless something is done about carbon pollution and climate change, NRDC officials said.
The state sits in a spot where high pollen from ragweed and ozone pollution intersect.
“These cities are home to roughly 5 million Ohioans,” said Juan Declet-Barreto, one of the authors of the report. “That’s a sizable amount of the Midwestern population in Ohio that is exposed to ozone health risks.”
Although the report mostly covered cities, rural areas like Port Clinton and Fremont also can be affected, he said. The NRDC used information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone monitors around the country.
There were nine monitors in the west end of Ottawa County in 2014, and none in Sandusky County, according to the federal EPA.
Climate change is tied to ground-level ozone pollution because carbon warms the planet and traps incoming radiation from the sun, Declet-Barreto said. As the planet heats up, volatile organic compounds — which are gases — cook in the lower atmosphere and turn into ozone.
“Ozone is good in the stratosphere so it can protect us from dangerous solar rays,” he said. “It’s bad at the ground level because it gets in the lungs and irritates the lungs and makes breathing more difficult.”
Electricity-generating power plants are the main source of carbon pollution, according to the report. To help Ohio reduce its allergy and asthma issues, legislators should push for stricter limits on pollution from these plants and Ohioans should make more investments in renewable energy, he said.
But Energy in Depth, a research group launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said climate change does not cause asthma and that harsher rules will hurt the industry and its customers.
“Once again, NRDC is all tied up in knots trying to explain how cleaner air over the past 30 years leads to higher asthma rates,” said Matt Dempsey, Energy in Depth spokesman. “Simply put, they can’t. Nevertheless, they are making this argument in an attempt to support EPA regulations that will mean increased costs to consumers and put millions of people out of work.”
The U.S. EPA is expected this summer to finalize the Clean Power Plan, which will for the first time set limits on how much carbon pollution can be emitted by power plants.
The Great Lakes region is one of the most vulnerable for high ragweed pollen and ozone levels, and Detroit was No. 7 on the list of worst cities for sneezing and wheezing. Richmond, Va., was No. 1 on the list of worst cities in the country.
Carbon pollution adds to climate change, which continues to warm the planet. Last year was the hottest on Earth since record keeping started in 1880, according to the report.
Carbon dioxide seems to help ragweed — a plant that fuels allergies for many — grow bigger and create more pollen, the report shows. Ragweed also has a greater tolerance for higher ozone levels.
The allergy season in the northern United States has increased by almost 20 days, said Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, a pediatrician in Alexandria, Va., who spoke during a conference call Wednesday regarding the report.
“Climate change is already causing shift in basic natural systems,” Ahdoot said. “These changes ultimately impact our health with children at particularly elevated risk.”
Children are more exposed to ozone because they play outside and tend to spend more time outside than adults do, she said.
Worst cities for sneezing and wheezing
Ohio has seven of the top 35. Here are the ones that made the list and their ranking:
• Dayton — No. 15
• Cleveland — No. 16
• Toledo — No. 17
• Akron — No. 20
• Cincinnati — No. 23
• Youngstown — No. 33
• Columbus — No. 34
Article courtesy of thenews-messenger.com