Lung Association: Iberville ozone pollution is worst in state

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

Iberville has the worst ozone   pollution problem of any parish in Louisiana, the American Lung Association said in its just-released 2010 State of the Air Report.

Although there was some improvement, the number of “high ozone” days earned the parish another “F” for ozone pollution. The parish got a “B” on particle pollution, generally less of a problem statewide.

The association listed Baton Rouge metropolitan statistical area, of which Iberville Parish as having the 25th worst air quality in the nation, an improvement from a ranking of 21st in 2009 and 10th in 2008.

The report showed Iberville Parish had 51 days of ozone pollution, or smog, serious enough to affect sensitive people (orange days) and two days of days in which the air quality was unhealthy for all people (red days), producing a weighted average of 18 unhealthy days in which ozone was a problem. The recent data show an improvement from weighted average of 25.2 days of ozone pollution.

By comparison, East Baton Rouge Parish had a weighted average of 14.8 days, the second highest listed for the state, including 37 orange days and five red days. Pointe Coupee Parish had a weighted average of 11 days; Ascension, 10.7, and West Baton Rouge, 7.

Listing its key findings, the Lung Association said air quality has improved in many parts of the country, but more than 175 million, or about 58 percent, still “suffer pollution levels that are often dangerous to breathe. Unhealthy air remains a threat to the lives and health of millions of people in the United States, despite great progress.”

The group described smog as the most widespread pollutant. It forms when nitrogen oxide gases (Nox) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from vehicle and industrial emissions react in the presence of sunlight and heat.

“When you inhale ozone, it irritates your lungs, leaving them with something like a bad sunburn,” said Normal H. Edelman, M.D., the association's chief medical officer. “It causes health problems the day you breathe it in, and even days after. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and even shorten your life.”

Figures from the Lung Association showed the risk of disease in most cases increased in Iberville Parish since its 2009 report.

In a population of 32,545, the association listed 8,694 people – more than a quarter of the parish's population – at risk for cardiovascular disease, an increase from 8,639 from the previous year; 2,546 at risk for diabetes, up from 1,840; 2,002 at risk for adult asthma, up from 1,550; 1,067 at risk for chronic bronchitis, up from 823; 726 at risk for pediatric asthma, up from 706, and 393 at risk for emphysema, compared to 394.