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North Pole, Fairbanks pollution levels remain highest in country

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Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 5:50 pm | Updated: 2:00 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

Particulate pollution levels in North Pole and Fairbanks remained far higher today than in the 300-plus cities in the Lower 48 tracked through a nationwide cooperative program sponsored by federal, state and local agencies.

Fairbanks does not participate in the national program.

But it does report pollution levels, so it is possible to make a comparison. The state Department of Environmental Conservation is listed as a participant in the program, but it apparently does not send information about Fairbanks to www.airnow.gov.

In North Pole at 7 a.m., the particulate level was 204 micrograms at the Hurst Road fire station.

It peaked Tuesday night at 245 micrograms at 11 p.m. At North Pole Elementary School, the reading was 61 micrograms at 4 a.m. It was 106 at 11 p.m. Tuesday.

In downtown Fairbanks, the reading at 7 a.m. was 74 micrograms. The  readings overnight were in the 50s to the 70s.

The highest levels in the Lower 48, according to the cities tracked at www.airnow.gov, had readings in the 50s. Stockton, Calif., listed as the city with the highest pollution on the website, had a reading of about 57 this morning. Bakersfield, Calif., which was second, had a reading about the same.

What all this tells me is that the borough and the state need to spend some more money to provide better and more extensive real-time monitoring and communication. This is an important step in increasing the level of public awareness about the pollution problems in Fairbanks.

The forecast for today for North Pole remains "very unhealthy," while for Fairbanks is is "unhealthy."

There are no spots in the Lower 48 with unhealthy or very unhealthy forecasts.

The problem in the Fairbanks area consists of particulate matter which is too small to be seen with the eye, 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less.

The EPA says this about the issue: "The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream. Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart. Larger particles are of less concern, although they can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat."

EPA says that the risks for children are increased because their lungs are still developing, they spend more time running around outside and they are "more likely to have asthma or acute respiratory diseases, which can be aggravated when particle levels are high."

"It appears that risk varies throughout a lifetime, generally being higher in early childhood, lower in healthy adolescents and younger adults, and increasing in middle age through old age as the incidence of heart and lung disease and diabetes increases. Factors that increase your risk of heart attack, such as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels, also may increase your risk from particles. In addition, scientists are evaluating new studies that suggest that exposure to high particle levels may also be associated with low birth weight in infants, pre-term deliveries, and possibly fetal and infant deaths."

 

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