Data Shows Major Air Quality Improvement in D.C. Region

Sep 25, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over the past several years, the D.C. region’s air quality has continued to show major improvement according to new data presented during today’s Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee meeting at the Council of Governments.

The summer of 2013 featured only four unhealthy air quality days—four Code Orange and zero Code Red days. COG data also showed that since 2006, 90 degree and higher temperatures no longer guarantee that the region will exceed federal health standards. In 2013, for example, the region had 18 days over 90 degrees but just four unhealthy air quality days.

“This is the cleanest summer since 2009,” said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who serves as MWAQC Vice Chair. “Progress has been made through the combined efforts of governments as well as individuals.”

Officials noted specific federal, state, and local actions, such as new regulations to reduce emissions from power plants, passenger vehicles, and heavy-duty, diesel engines and programs to improve energy efficiency and renewable energy use.

“No Code Red days this summer is a huge victory for all in our region,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic Managing Director of Public and Government Relations Lon Anderson, who serves as Clean Air Partners Chair. “I’m pleased that Clean Air Partners contributed to this accomplishment by educating the public about pollution and encouraging people to take action to protect their health and clean the air.”

Ground-level ozone is a colorless gas created when air pollutants react on hot, sunny summer days. High concentrations of ozone can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, fatigue, headaches, nausea, chest pain, and eye and throat irritation.

“Thanks to your hard work D.C. area residents will be healthier and live longer,” American Lung Association Assistant Vice President for National Policy and Advocacy Janice Nolen told officials. She also urged leaders to consider the impact of climate change on air quality, which may lengthen the ozone season and cause larger increases of ozone on unhealthy air quality days.

Mendelson also stressed that “the region can’t lose sight of the challenges ahead. Even as the region’s air quality improves, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering lowering the health standard for ozone.” EPA will announce a revised standard in 2014. 

The Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee, which is staffed by the Council of Governments, coordinates air quality planning in the National Capital Region. Its members include area elected officials, environmental directors, and state air management and transportation officials.

Clean Air Partners is a public-private partnership created by the Council of Governments and Baltimore Metropolitan Council to encourage the public to take voluntary action to reduce pollution.

To view the full 2013 Ozone Season Summary and Historical Trends presentation, click here.

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