Asian Pollution Threatens U.S.

Scientists measuring the level of ozone on the West Coast of the United States are finding the ozone quantity has increased dramatically because of exponentially greater amounts of pollution coming across the ocean from Asia.The scientists estimate that it takes roughly one week for the pollution to make its way to the United States.

The pollution carried from the Asian countries strikes the the Western states hardest where the elevation is highest, as Ian Faloona, a University of California, Davis atmospheric scientist, can attest. From an astronomical observatory over 5,000 feet high in the Santa Lucia Mountains, Faloona and his graduate assistant, Andrew Post, have studied the ozone in the area for the last three years and found ozone concentrations as high as 80 parts per billion. They have data suggesting the ozone is descending and mixing into the air in the San Joaquin Valley, thus increasing the smog Bakersfield and Fresno.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has protested penalties leveled at it for excessive pollution, saying much of the problem derives from Asian pollution. The district funded Faloona’s experiments and research starting in 2011.

Last year, it petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for an exemption from penalties because of the Asian pollution, noting that on Aug. 10, 2012, Asian pollution from Asia forced Fresno smog levels above the federal standard. The EPA had already penalized the region for exceeding ozone pollution standards in 2010.

The EPA rejected the request from the San Joaquin Valley air district, claiming it was not submitted properly, and avowing that even with the Asian pollution, the district should meet the federal standard. Meanwhile, the EPA wants even stricter standards, lowering the ozone levels from 75 parts per billion to between 65 and 70 parts per billion.

Dolores Weller, director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, feels the San Joaquin Valley air district is crying wolf, and told the Los Angeles Times that its officials are “not focusing in on homegrown pollution and continuing to look for exemptions and further excuses. It’s just an easier target for an air district under pressure from local industries.”

Yet studies conducted recently estimate Asian ozone leaves 3 to 8 parts per billion of the pollution in Southern California areas that are not high-elevation, and as much as 15 parts per billion in higher-elevated areas. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated: “Asian fossil fuel emissions can contribute as much as 20 percent of total ozone during springtime pollution episodes in western U.S. surface air.”



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