Iowa air quality exceedances hit record high in 2010

Photo source: Iowa DNR report

Iowa exceeded national air quality standards a record 85 times in 2010 – a number partly influenced by new lower allowances for sulfur dioxide, lead and PM 2.5 (small particulate matter), according to an annual Iowa DNR report first reported upon by

National Ambient Air Quality exceedances occur when air pollutants – PM 2.5, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, lead, carbon monoxide or other small particulate matter – reach levels that are “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” including young children, the elderly and people with respiratory conditions or heart disease.

In 2009, 34 exceedances were recorded in Iowa.  2008 and 2007 saw 25 and 48 exceedances respectively.

Last August the EPA’s allowance of sulfur dioxide grew stricter and in October 2008 strictness for the lead standard increased tenfold.

But both forms of pollution are regulated for a reason.

Short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide can increase the likelihood of contracting asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or other lung and heart disease. And it can worsen the symptoms of those who already have such conditions. Ingesting lead damages the nervous system.

Thirty-three air quality exceedances in 2010 came from monitors in Muscatine, which ranks in the worst ten percent of US counties in cancer risk due to air and water releases.

The town is the home of Grain Processing Corp. – the key to the local economy, but primary source of the air quality problems. It emits huge amounts of particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.

The company says it has worked and will continue to work at reducing emissions, but the company has constantly exceeded emissions standards over the past three years. In 2006 GPC was fined $538,000 for air quality infractions.

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