Tougher smog standards needed

By The Columbia Chronicle

In an effort to improve air quality and protect people with asthma and other respiratory disorders, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on Jan. 25 that it will begin to limit nitrogen oxide, a chemical responsible for smog formation.

In general, any standards that impose limits on air pollution levels are beneficial for citizens, especially given that the EPA hasn’t updated its standards since 1971. The new proposed limit would be 100 parts per billion.

As reported in a Jan. 25 Chicago Tribune article, the EPA measured Chicago’s nitrogen oxide content at 116 parts per billion. Other notorious cities such as San Diego and Los Angeles averaged at 87 and 84 parts per billion, respectively.

Taking this information into account, the new national standards are actually quite weak. The EPA should have proposed tighter restrictions that would force other large metropolitan areas to tighten their standards. This could have strongly influenced smog levels nationwide and made a real

difference in our air quality.

States will have until 2021 to comply with the new regulations, but that shouldn’t deter Illinois from taking action immediately to get its levels below the

national average.

The current sensor used to monitor nitrogen oxide in Chicago is located at the high-traffic exchange of the Eisenhower and Kennedy expressways, which may skew the data of the overall air quality. There should be more sensors in different neighborhoods of metropolitan Chicago to better determine an accurate reading of nitrogen levels. The sensors should also be more visible to the public so regular citizens are more aware of the air quality in the city.

Although these measures occur on the state and federal levels, individuals can make a difference to improve the city’s air quality. Instead of driving, people can use alternate means of transportation, such as public transit or a bicycle. If a person does drive, he or she should be sure to limit vehicle idling time and keep up-to-date on vehicle emissions certifications.