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Reader: Everyone Bitches About Air Pollution, but No One Does Anything

Denver made another national list last week, though not for good reasons. The Mile High City has some of the highest levels of hazardous air pollution in the country, according to the American Lung Association.

In fact, the Denver metro area has been in so-called "non-attainment" of federal ozone standards since 2004. Following the withdrawal of an extension request by Colorado Governor Jared Polis last month, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to reclassify the region's non-attainment status from "moderate" to "serious," a step that would force Colorado regulators to strengthen pollution controls.

In the meantime, readers have released plenty of hot air over the latest findings. Comments Colin:

It also smells like cat food.

Responds Scott:

I'm glad Polis is trying to force some fixes since everyone likes to b*tch about it, but no one actually wants to be responsible and do anything.

Explains Daniel:

Goddamn transplants!

Argues Nick:

Another reason to leave!

David replies:

You mean to tell us that with greater population comes greater pollution? Groundbreaking stuff here, folks.

And Quinn notes:

This Westword article doesn’t seem to take into account the vast improvement in air quality in the last decade compared to its history, no research into enough data sets to show trend, and no acknowledgement for the terrain....Denver sits in a bowl. The air quality is definitely a problem. I just want better journalism.

The 2019 edition of the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report ranked Denver as the twelfth-worst out of 228 metropolitan areas for ozone pollution, which poses a wide variety of respiratory, cardiovascular and developmental health risks.

“Denver residents should be aware that we’re breathing unhealthy air, placing our health and lives at risk,” JoAnna Strother, regional director of public policy for the Lung Association, said in a statement accompanying the release of the report. “In addition to challenges here in Denver, more than 4 in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we’re heading in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting public health.”

The report analyzed three years’ worth of the most recent available data, collected by state and local agencies across the country between 2015 and 2017. After several years of improvement, the seven-county Denver metro area saw an increase in the number of high-ozone days during that period, putting hundreds of thousands of residents at greater risk of negative health effects.

“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Strother. “When older adults or children with asthma breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room.”

What do you think of pollution in Denver? Let us know in a comment or at editorial@westword.com.

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