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Report: Indiana’s Air Quality Improving But Still Needs Work

Paul Falardeau

Indiana’s air quality is improving, but there’s still a lot of work to be done, according to an annual American Lung Association report released Wednesday.

The report indicates Indiana has reduced the amount of long-term soot pollution in its air since last year. Counties, though, are reporting more days that include a few hours of high soot levels and more days with high ozone levels—things they say can be dangerous to people’s health.

American Lung Association Healthy Air Campaign Manager Mike Kolleng says particle pollution refers to invisible pollution such as dust, ash, small heavy metals and other compounds that can be breathed into the lungs.

“[There's] an increasing rate of people with asthma, with heart disease and then you have an elderly population, children,” Kolleng says. “You have all these vulnerable populations, which constitute a large portion of Americans who are vulnerable to these unhealthy air quality days.”

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management monitors air pollution in the state and released its own report on air quality last week. IDEM Spokesman Dan Goldblatt says the short-term pollution spikes are difficult to control, so long-term trends are a more accurate representation of overall air quality.

“Continually we have the data that proves that air quality is getting better in the state. Almost every single person in the state is living and working in an area that meets all six federal NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) standards,” Goldblatt says.

In addition to recommending Indiana improve its air quality, the American Lung Association is calling on the EPA to strengthen ozone standards and adopt a proposal to boost regulations on carbon pollution.

The EPA proposed stricter ozone standards in November. Indiana and ten other states are opposing the new standards, saying they will hurt economic growth.

Environmental groups argue policies like those keep Indiana from improving its residents’ health.

“IDEM needs to stick to its job,” Jodi Perras, the Indiana Representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign says. “When the EPA sets the standards based on what the scientists say is best for our health, then IDEM’s job is to develop a plan to meet that standard and make sure we’re all protected.”

The EPA is expected to issue its final ruling on the ozone standards in October.