El Paso County air quality: F for ozone, A for air particulate

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The American Lung Association has given El Paso County an F for its ground level ozone and an A for its air-particulate pollution levels.

The grades are part of the association’s annual State of the Air report.

Ground level ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides combine with volatile organic compounds in the presence of heat and sunlight. Particulate pollution is made up of fine pieces of ash, soot, dust and metals that originate from mobile sources as well as power plants.

El Paso’s ozone grade fell from a B last year, mostly because of the new national air quality standard for ozone, which was lowered from 80 parts per billion to 75 parts per billion.

“These failing grades for ozone pollution do not mean that ozone levels have gotten worse from previous years,” said Natalia Swalnick, air quality manager at the Colorado chapter of the American Lung Association. “It does mean that now we recognize that the ozone we have is much more dangerous and we need to continue our actions to clean up the sources.”

But pollution from particulates shows better news for the state – all counties in Colorado passed the annual test for particulates, indicating that yearly averages were within healthy limits.

“Air pollution can harm even healthy adults, but it can threaten the lives of more vulnerable populations such as infants and older adults,” she said. “Lungs continue to develop until age 18, and when children are exposed to air pollution, it can stunt that growth.”

The American Lung Association says that six out of 10 Americans or 186.1 million people, live in areas where air pollution levels endanger lives.

Grades by County for ozone:

Arapahoe: F
Boulder: F
Denver: C
Douglas: F
La Plata: B
Larimer: F
Montezuma: C
Weld: F