HenriettaPost.com: Editorial: Failing grade an opportunity to improve

(May 12, 2011)

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Posted May 12, 2011 MPNnow.com —

It’s a grade no one wants: a big red F. That’s the judgment slapped on Monroe County in the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air rankings.

In Wayne County, a D ranking in the ozone department makes for an only slightly healthier environment. Ontario County doesn’t have a ranking, as the county doesn’t have monitors for air pollution, but it’s a safe bet ozone isn’t stopping at the county line.

Monroe County received the dubious distinction based on a high ozone concentration. The county averages 4.3 high-ozone days a year. That refers to days in which sensitive populations — children; teens; anyone over age 65; and those suffering from asthma, emphysema, cardiovascular disease and diabetes — are advised not to be outside for an extended period of time.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, though. The data show signs of improvement: There are 1.2 fewer high-ozone days per year now than in 1996. And Monroe County’s rating on particle pollution has decreased 1.5 days since 2000.

But clearly, when the weakest members of society are being adversely affected by pollution — whether emitted by cars, factories or elsewhere — we need to do better.

One way we can do better by driving less. There’s plenty of incentive to cut down on driving, given the dizzying climb gas prices have taken in recent weeks. We can carpool when possible, telecommute and consider public transportation when applicable.
Another way to reduce ozone is using less electricity by turning off the TV and the lights when leaving a room, or replacing blown-out light bulbs with efficient, compact fluorescent bulbs.

While we can’t single-handedly reverse the problem of air pollution in our region — there are a complex web of forces, from local pollution-emitting companies and traffic to coal plants half a nation away — we can take the first steps.
And like any journey, the path to cleaner air begins with a first step.