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Know Your Air

According to the 2010 State of the Air Report conducted by the American Lung Association and published on its website, the quality of Bowling Green’s air may be at risk.

Ozone, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency glossary, is a gas in the atmosphere that is produced naturally or through human activities. Human activities include photochemical smog, commonly produced from factories.

High concentrations of ozone can be harmful to humans and many other living organisms as they breath in harmful chemicals. According to the State of the Air Report, Bowling Green is at risk.

The 2011 State of the Air Report is due for release Wednesday, April 27, 2011, determining Bowling Green’s rating for 2010.

Gary Silverman, chair of the Bowling Green State University department of sustainability, was surprised that the air quality would be graded at such a low level. Silverman believes Bowling Green has good air quality.

View Air Monitors Wood County in a larger map

To measure air quality, air monitors are placed in different locations. Gary Engler, environmental supervisor for the Ohio EPA, said there are 49 monitors in the state of Ohio. The monitor for Bowling Green, located at the EPA Northwest District Office on Dundridge Road, monitors ozone levels.

According to the 2009-2010 Ohio Air Monitoring Network Report, Bowling Green is considered ‘urban’ on the scale of area monitored.

“Urban scale measures dimensions of 4 – 40 kilometer range,” Engler said. “The ozone monitor is generally urban scale because they’re monitoring in areas of larger kilometers.” Due to this monitoring system, Bowling Green is compared with true urban cities, such as Toledo, Cleveland, and Dayton.

EPA’s ozone database displays a map, which shows an accurate account of ozone monitoring, highlighting the amount of ozone pollution in an area during an allotted amount of time.

Results of Air Monitor Located at the EPA NWDO (Northwest District Office) (courtesy of

Result of Air Quality Monitor Located at the EPA NWDO. (courtesy of

The EPA’s national standard for ozone air quality has remained at a concentration of .075 ppm (parts per million). Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy and advocacy of the American Lung Association, explained it is best to be below the national standard.

Bowling Green has been monitored annually since 1997, and has been under the national standard twice in this time period. The two occasions were doing the most recent years of monitoring, 2008 and 2009. Years prior, Bowling Green has had an unsafe ozone concentration of over .075 ppm. The 2010 report has not yet been released.

The American Lung Association uses a different monitoring system. Bowling Green is grouped with multiple cities, including Perrysburg and Waterville, for a joint measure of the entire Wood County, which was graded a “D.”

“When you set up air quality regions,” Silverman explained, “You have some arbitrary divisions.”

Engler said, “Generally ozone follows the prevailing wind directions.” He added that the air package moves from the southwest to the northeast.

“The highest readings for ozone tend to be northeast of the urbanized areas,” said Engler. For Columbus, the highest reading ozone is in New Albany, for Cleveland in Lake County, and for Cincinnati in Butler, all locations northeast of the major city.

However, Wood County  is essentially located to the east of Lucas County (Toledo), out of harm from the pollution of the city which the 2010 State of the Air graded an “F.”

In terms of the EPA’s ozone monitoring, Bowling Green as a city is meeting national standards.

What are the Concerns in Bowling Green?

With Bowling Green being the home of college campus Bowling Green State University, students, faculty and staff should be aware of the air quality on and around campus.

Being located near I-75, emissions from vehicles and traffic are concentrated with the air locals breathe.

“Monitors show much greater pollution levels near highways and major interstates,” Nolen said.

Silverman responded to the dangers of emissions by acknowledging the power of Bowling Green’s wind.

“The wind’s blowing,” he said. “And most times it’s blowing the other direction.” As confirmed by Engler, the wind blows in a northeast direction, causing emissions from I-75 to blow away from the campus.

Engler said ozone can be generated from automobile emissions and sometimes factories.

Although Bowling Green is a rural area, it also has small industries which are releasing thousands of pounds of pollutants in the air. Nine Bowling Green companies were required to monitor their toxic releases for the 2009 Toxic Release Inventory. Some pollutants are more harmful than others, but these companies were required to send in their numbers because of the amount of emission which occurs in their facility.

“Pollution levels can be, and are, very in high in too many places,” Nolen said. She explained these pollutants, not exclusive to those in the TRI, cause higher levels of ozone, which locals, students, and staff live amongst.

Nolen explained the groups whose lungs are most at risk to pollutants and ozone damage are children under 18, as their lungs are still developing, and adults over the age of 65. Nolen also noted that young healthy adults who exercise outdoors regularly are at risk.

“College students don’t realize they are at risk for pollution,” she said.

Silverman also said the air can be harmful to those who have asthma or other chronic lung diseases.

Student Kristen Boyd walking to class. Photo by Nikia Washington.

Kristen Boyd, junior at BGSU, said she discovered she had asthma during her second year in Bowling Green.

“I feel it more so when I go to sleep or when I work out,” she said. Boyd walks to class regularly and on warm days, and she said she feels more out of breath and more pain on warm days. Boyd said she never thought of the possibility that her asthma could be due to air pollution.

What Bowling Green can Brag About

Bowling Green’s air quality also has much to brag about. BGSU is surrounded by a city with very little industrialization. Silverman compared the university to the location of University of Toledo, where the industrialization cause a greater amount of air pollution.

Approximately eight years ago, BGSU converted from coal to natural gas to heat its buildings.  Silverman said the burning of natural gas is much cleaner for the environment than the burning of coal.

The facility is called a steam plant.

“The natural gas produces steam. And then the steam is sent through tunnels to every building on campus,” Silverman said.

What You Can Do

“There are many things students can do to protect themselves,” said Nolen. gives the daily forecast of air pollution and also the ozone forecast. Nolen said this is especially useful for those with asthma or those who like to exercise outdoors.

“Be supportive of the measure to clean up,” Nolen added, referring to the cleanup of the air. Students and anyone who wants their voice to be heard can send comments to the EPA through the American Lung Association’s website on areas that they feel need to be cleaned up.

Follow the American Lung Association on Twitter at @lungassociaton for updates on the 2011 State of the Air Report.

113 thoughts on “Know Your Air

  1.    Ruby Says:

    “There are many things students can do to protect themselves,” said Nolen… True. And each one of us got a role to play in this fight against air pollution.

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