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Report: Tampa Bay Had State's Dirtiest Air In 2015

All is not so clear in the Sunshine City?
Wikipedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

You wouldn't think that a region that prides itself on outdoor activities and sunshine would have problems with air pollution. But Tampa Bay had some of the dirtiest air in the state in 2015.

The report came from the advocacy group Environment Florida. It says in 2015, Tampa Bay experienced 56 dirty air pollution days. The region - which is swept with sea breezes from the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay - was the worst area in the state in 2015 for both soot and smog.

Turner Lott is with Environment Florida.

"Some include emissions from transportation, from cars and trucks that contribute to ozone level pollution," he said. "And it doesn't help when a city has poor transit infrastructure. A robust transit system would cut emissions significantly."

Here's an excerpt from the report:

Across Florida, 21 cities and metro areas had unhealthy levels of air pollution with an average of 17 dirty air days during 2015, including Miami, Tallahassee, and Gainesville.

Smog, or ground-level ozone, causes a host of respiratory consequences, ranging from coughing, wheezing and throat irritation, to asthma, increased risk of infection, and permanent damage to lung tissue.

Particulate matter can cause similar adverse respiratory consequences and also trigger a range of cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure, and reduced blood supply to the heart. These problems can result in increased hospital admissions or premature death. Particulate matter can also trigger premature birth, raise the risk of autism, stunt lung development in children, and increase the risk that they develop asthma. Recent studies also implicate particulate matter in an increased risk of dementia.

The group is asking people to contact the state's two U.S. Senators to put pressure on the Trump administration to back off proposed cuts to the Clean Air Act.

"Blocking the clean power plant initiative will pollute our air, leading to 3,600 additional premature deaths, 90.000 more asthma attacks in children and 300,000 more missed work and schools days by 2030," Lott said.

In the meantime, Lott says one thing people can do to help is carpool and use public transit.

Copyright 2017 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.