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Global Warming Plus Smog Equals More Bad Air Days

WASHINGTON, DC, September 13, 2007 (ENS) - More red alert air pollution days are in store for residents of 10 mid-sized U.S. cities as higher temperatures due to global warming intensify the effects of smog, a new analysis concludes. Smog is formed when pollutants from motor vehicles and factories mix with sunlight and heat.

The analysis was prepared by researchers at Yale, Johns Hopkins and Columbia universities, in collaboration with researchers at State University of New York at Albany, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC.

"The air in many of our nation's cities is already unhealthy. Hotter weather means more bad air days for millions of Americans," said NRDC Climate Centerís Science Director Dan Lashof.

On red alert days people are advised to limit prolonged outdoor exertion. For people with asthma, smog can increase their sensitivity to allergens.

"People with asthma are especially at risk, but everyone is adversely harmed by breathing unhealthy air. This research provides another compelling reason to establish enforceable limits on pollution," said Lashof.

The study, "Heat Advisory: How Global Warming Causes More Bad Air Days," projects that higher temperatures mean more smog for a given level of precursor emissions.

Based on data from the 2007 journal "Climatic Change," the study looks at Asheville, North Carolina; Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Greenville, South Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Raleigh and Wilmington, North Carolina; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Washington, DC.

The researchers project that, unless action is taken to curb global warming, by mid-century people living cities across the eastern United States would see a doubling of the number of red alert days and a 15 percent drop in the number of summer days with good air quality.

The NRDC and other clean air advocates are using the study's findings in an attempt to convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, to lower the amount of ground-level ozone, or smog, that is legally permissible, and, in addition, to limit the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

The EPA's panel of science advisers has concluded that the current ozone standard of 84 parts per billion, ppb, should be reduced to between 60 and 70 ppb in order to protect public health.

"EPA should reduce the ozone standard to within the range recommended by its science advisers. A standard at the lower end of that range will save more lives," said Physicians for Social Responsibility's Environment and Health Programs Director Dr. Kristen Welker-Hood.

"During warmer months high ozone levels already create breathing problems for children, elderly, and those with respiratory diseases," she said. "We know that global warming will lead to higher temperatures, especially in urban areas, and as this study shows, we can expect more and more suffering related to unhealthy air the longer we wait to address global warming."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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