Environmentalists, saying air pollution is worsening throughout the nation, urged President Bush Friday to keep campaign promises to clean up the environment.
"From Kennebunkport, Maine, to Los Angeles, air pollution is bad and getting worse," said Alexandra Allen, staff attorney for U.S. Public Interest Research Groups. "We're urging him (Bush) to follow through on promises made in the campaign."A report by the group, tracking ozone smog and carbon monoxide levels in 82 cities in 21 states, said 57 percent of the cities studied had more days in 1988 with ozone smog levels above the federal health standard of 0.12 parts per million than in any of the past five years. Also, carbon monoxide levels were above the health standard of 9 parts per million for five or more days in 1987 in 30 percent of the cities studied.
Ozone, the primary component of smog, is formed when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides - coming primarily from cars, trucks and buses - combine in the presence of sunlight and can cause lung damage. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless poisonous gas produced by incomplete combustion of carbon and can cause heart problems and present dangers to pregnant women and the elderly. Burning of gasoline and diesel fuel in cars, trucks and buses is the largest source of carbon monoxide pollution.
"The report is a vivid demonstration on where delay has gotten us on clean air," said Allen, who was joined by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., in urging prompt action on amending the Clean Air Act.
Last summer's heat wave contributed to unhealthy smog levels and with the global warming trend, problems will continue, Allen said.
Allen said the major culprits of air pollution, especially confronting big cities, are automobile emissions, toxic air pollution and acid rain.
"We need a new Clean Air Act that helps the general public, not General Motors," said Rob Stuart of New Jersey PIRG.
"How many lakes, streams and trees will be destroyed," said California PIRG's Joan Clayburgh, "until something is done about acid rain."
Allen said she was optimistic about passing a tough Clean Air Act this year because "of the severity of the problem (pollution associated with heat) last year and the changes in the political landscape." She noted Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, has replaced Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., as majority leader, saying Byrd "opposed clean air legislation most of the time."
The report found the most severe problems in big cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Washington. States escaping air pollution hazards include Hawaii and North Dakota.
California continues to have the worst air pollution in the nation, the report found. There were 176 days in Southern California last year when the ozone health standard was exceeded, compared to an average of 168 days over the previous nine years. The ozone level in Los Angeles peaked at 0.34 in 1988, nearly three times the health standard. In 1987 and 1983, the peak levels were 0.33 and 0.39, respectively.
OZONE LEVELS EXCEEDED
*In 39 percent of the cities studied, more days in 1988 had ozone levels exceeding the health standard than in any year of the decades.
*In one of every eight cities studied, ozone levels above the health standard were recorded for 20 or more days in 1988. In 48 percent of the cities, ozone levels above the health standard were recorded for 10 or more days in 1988. No city's ozone level is permitted to rise above the federal health standard for more than one day per year.
*In 1987, more than a quater of the cities had five days of carbon monoxide levels above the health standard.