|By Bob Weaver|
West Virginians often brag about their clean mountain air, but they should consider a dose of reality.
The latest American Lung Association State of the Air report shows some improvement for some West Virginia areas, but a number are still on a Top 25 worst list in the USA.
Seven West Virginia communities are among the most polluted in the US in terms of year-round particulate matter in the air, including Charleston (17th), Weirton (12th), Parkersburg (20th), Wheeling (20th), Huntington (20th), Martinsburg (24th), and the Fairmont-Clarksburg area (24th).
Regarding improvement, air pollution levels in the Charleston metro area are the best ever recorded since the organization's first annual report 12 years ago, but being 17th worst in the nation is nothing to brag about. Charleston was ranked 12th.
Most particle pollution is largely due to the high levels of sulfur dioxide emitted by large, coal-fired power plants.
Particle pollution can only be seen when there is haze that forms when millions of particles blur the spread of sunlight. You may not be able to tell when you're breathing particle pollution, yet it is so dangerous it can shorten your life, according to the American Lung Association.
Some people at risk from the pollution, according to the American Lung Association, anyone with lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, anyone with heart disease or diabetes,
anyone over 65 and infants, children and teens.
Most West Virginians do not get stirred up about pollution, leaning toward the notion that jobs will be lost if more controls are put in place.
Much like they don't get stirred up about high mercury levels in the state's water that have caused health alerts to eat just a few fish annually or suffer a risk of health problems.
Most of West Virginia's political leaders, including those in Washington, continue to call for deregulation of environmental standards and the neutering of the Environmental Protection Agency, particularly to help the coal industry.
Deb Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, said millions of Americans across the country, including the residents of some areas of West Virginia, are still forced to breathe unhealthy levels of air pollution as a result of air quality standards that are outdated.