Washington is still dealing with harsh air pollution, CDC says

Covid-19, an air pollutant emitted from diesel cars, trucks and buses in the air-conditioning, plumbing and heating systems of industrial and commercial vehicles, “is very hazardous to human health and is one of the substances in particular that could have a big impact on public health,” the CDC says in a new report.

While winter respite from the air pollution in Washington remains very strong, officials with the agency say it’s important to remember that air in December, January and February, when ozone levels are at their lowest, is still an intensive risk.

In a news release, the CDC issued the report titled, “Toxic Air, a Resource to Preserve,” and stated it “indicates extreme air pollution levels are present in 21 states and along two coasts.” There were also extreme levels of other air pollutants in 13 states and the District of Columbia, the agency said.

Thirty-four states and two territories can expect “extreme” or “very high” levels of several air pollutants, including ozone, fine particulate matter, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide and other greenhouse gases. A complete list of those states and territories is available here.

The high pollution levels in these seven states and the District are attributed to diesel exhaust. That is, their infrastructure is highly susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution, meaning they have industrial facilities that burn and produce diesel fuel and distillates and are heavily reliant on diesel trucks and related equipment.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s on-road diesel system and equipment for chemical manufacturing, energy refining and marine transportation are among the sectors that can be highly exposed to dangerous air pollution, the CDC’s report says.

According to the CDC, nitrogen dioxide is a powerful atmospheric pollutant. It reduces the core oxygen in the air, causing air to become less breathable. Nitrogen dioxide contributes to a chain reaction of negative effects, including damage to lung and cardiovascular health, as well as respiratory and cardiovascular disorders, it says.

Scientists have previously identified three types of nitrogen dioxide: urban plant and animal nitrogen dioxide, industrial nitrogen dioxide and automobile/truck/turbine diesel exhaust.

Particulate matter is a non-volatile, organic material that is moved through the air by sunlight and wind. It is created by smoke, incomplete combustion and the burning of solid fuels such as coal and wood.

Ground-level ozone and nitrogen dioxide are key components of the air pollution that is known as the Central Valley Orange Blossom Pollution Ozone Contamination Rule. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued the rule in 2014, after previous ozone levels linked to premature deaths and cardiovascular disease.

Several home heating sources may contribute to the deadly health effects of the OBP, including wood, firewood, domestic appliances and other heating sources such as oil and natural gas boilers, it says.

According to the CDC, flu-like symptoms, such as extreme tiredness, fast breathing, congestion, headache, shortness of breath, chills and muscle aches, are associated with the presence of poor air quality.

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