Linn County air quality rated "F" by American Lung Association - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Linn County air quality rated "F" by American Lung Association

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

The American Lung Association (ALA) is grading the quality of air in cities all over the country, and according to the report, many Iowa communities are flunking.

The ALA released its 2012 State of the Air report Wednesday. The good news, most Iowa counties are getting "A"'s when it comes to our ozone levels. But when you take a look at particle pollution -- literally meaning, specks of stuff in the air -- the report isn't as favorable. Black Hawk County, for example, gets a "D". Linn County is rated an "F".

Wednesday afternoon, we caught up with long-time Cedar Rapids residents John and Lois Corrigan enjoying an evening outside on their porch.

"She had a margarita, I'm drinking a beer and we're leading the good life," John said.

About a mile or so away from their home, several factories are working at full speed. According to the ALA, emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes are making the air in Cedar Rapids unhealthy. But the Corrigans say, they're not concerned about the industry's impact on the air around them.

"I don't know where they got that information. I assume it's correct, but I'd question it myself," said Corrigan.

Jim Hodina from the LInn County Air Quality Division said that the Corrigans have every reason to breathe easy.

"Their methodology doesn't align with the methodology we use in determining compliance with the health standards," he said.

Hodina is an Air Pollution Control Officer for Linn County. He said, despite what it says in the report, the particle pollution levels in the Cedar Rapids area are below the national standard, but that doesn't mean the county is in the clear.

"Until last year, we'd been seeing an increase. So this is the first year after four or five years that we've seen a decrease. The drop is very promising," said Hodina.

Depending on the day, air particle pollution can reach unsafe levels.

"They established standards that are protective of a sensitive population. Not just the average, healthy adult," said Hodina.

According to the ALA, of Linn County's 211,000 residents, nearly 52.000 are under 18. 27,000 are over 65. And 35 percent of the population has some type of lung or cardiovascular disease. Hodina says, the ALA is thinking of these folks when they create their particle pollution report card. Because for them, pollution can be life threatening.

"The particles are actually so small, that they can penetrate the lining of your lungs and get into your bloodstream," said Hodina.

The ALA's goal is ultimately for lawmakers strengthen the Clean Air Act, but regardless of the intent, Hodina is glad the report has folks like the Corrigans talking about the air.

Linn County is one of just two county-based air quality divisions in Iowa. They check pollution levels at several points in the county every day. Hodina believes people would be surprised to know how much stuff gets into the air. For every two pounds of garbage that gets dumped at the landfill, Hodina said one pound of particle pollution is released into the air.

The report from the ALA points directly at coal plants as a main cause of particle pollution. Alliant Energy does operate a coal plant in Linn County. A spokesperson says, they are fully compliant with all current Environmental Protection Agency regulations (EPA) regarding pollution and air quality.

Click here to read the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2012 report.

Click here to view air quality information for Linn County.

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