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Student Life

Tampa second most smog-polluted city in Florida

Tampa was listed as the second dirtiest smog-polluted city in Florida in a September 2011 report by PennEnviroment Research and Policy Center.

“There is a direct effect between air pollution and health,” said University of South Florida Professor Connie Mizak.  “When it comes to air pollution, the primary health effects are respiratory and cardiovascular. So when there is an increase in particles in the atmosphere … that is directly related to an increase in cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes in individuals.”

Smog, or ozone, is a type of air pollution created when certain chemicals in the atmosphere are exposed to sunlight. Smog-forming pollutants are largely emitted by car exhausts, power plants, and industrial fumes. In Tampa, rising air pollution is most likely due to long, intense summers coupled with increasing population.

According to PennEnvironment’s report Danger in the Air, Tampa experienced two smog days in 2011 when air pollution exceeded the current National Ambient Air Quality Standard, or NAAQS. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency revised the ozone NAAQS from 84 parts per billion to 75 parts per billion, despite the EPA’s own independent scientific advisory panel’s objection that the standard was still too high to be safe for humans.

“For ozone, we don’t have any areas in Florida showing monitoring data that indicates that the air is unhealthy for humans,” said Lynorae Benjamin, Chief of the Regulatory Development section of the EPA, in a January 30 phone interview.

“We are under current review of whether [0.075 ppm] is still protective … but the previous administrator of the EPA made the decision that it was protective of human health and the environment.”

As economic development increases in Tampa, so does air pollution.

“It comes down to, if we can minimize our pollution, we’ll find there will be significant health benefits,” said Joseph Michalsky, president of USF’s Student Environmental Association. “It’s the air you breathe. It affects the world you live in. It affects human health.”

The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee unanimously recommended a decreased ozone standard of 60 to 70 ppb as better protective of human health.  In compliance with this more stringent standard, Danger in the Air raised Tampa’s smog days to 10, with the highest concentration of ozone recorded at 87 ppb.


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