Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Honolulu’s air is among
cleanest in nation

A survey monitors air pollution
in nearly 700 U.S. counties

By Stephanie Gaskell
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK >> Half the country's population is breathing unhealthy amounts of air pollution, but not in Hawaii, where Honolulu was named among the cities with relatively clean air, according to a survey released today by the American Lung Association.

The findings, part of the group's annual "State of the Air" report, show that more than 142 million Americans live in cities with high levels of smog.

The report examines ozone air quality data for the period between 1998 and 2000 taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Nearly 700 counties across the nation were monitored and ranked according to how often their air quality reached "unhealthful" levels of air pollution.

The areas with the worst pollution were Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, Calif.; Bakersfield, Calif.; Fresno, Calif.; Visalia-Tulare-Porterville, Calif.; Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, Texas; Atlanta; Merced, Calif.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Charlotte-Gastonia, N.C.; Rock Hill, S.C.; and Sacramento-Yolo, Calif.

"The areas we're talking about represent some of the most densely populated areas in the country, so naturally we're going to have more people affected in those areas," said Janice Nolen, director of national policy for the American Lung Association. "But in some areas, it may be things like power plants contributing to the pollution."

The association blames the poor air-quality findings on outdated clean air standards, some dating back to 1979.

"More protective ozone standards effectively have been 'on hold' due to challenges by industry," John Kirkwood, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in a news release. "Somehow, industry believes it needs to continue to pollute. They have fought every step we've taken toward cleaner air for all Americans."

The group also named cities other than Honolulu that had relatively clean air: Bellingham, Wash.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Duluth, Minn.; Superior, Wis.; Fargo, N.D., Moorhead, Minn.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Laredo, Texas; Lincoln, Neb.; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; Salinas, Calif.; and Spokane, Wash.

"We want to make sure that people recognize that there are some places in the country where the air is pretty good," Nolen said.

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