Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay area smog ranks as second worst in state

Paradise isn't supposed to have smog.

The Tampa Bay area, though, is the second smoggiest metropolitan region in the Sunshine State, according to a report released this week by Environment Florida. Tops on the list was Pensacola.

The report came a day after Businessweek.com attempted to rank "America's Best Cities." Florida had two cities on the list. Tampa was No. 47. Jacksonville was No. 26. The publication cited "air quality" as one of the reasons Tampa didn't rank higher.

"It certainly is cause for concern," Phil Compton of the local chapter of the Sierra Club said. "This is a very serious thing."

Smog comes from burning gasoline and burning coal. Engines and smokestacks. Modern Florida was built for cars, of course, and the Big Bend power plant in Apollo Beach burns coal.

Smog is particularly dangerous for children and the elderly. Bad smog days can do to lungs what sunburns can do to skin. On the worst days, the Environment Florida report says, hospital visits for respiratory ailments go up, more adults miss work, more children miss school, and even healthy people experience a reduction in lung function.

Let's not be alarmist. Tampa's not good relative to Florida. But Florida's not bad relative to the rest of the country. There are more than 100 metropolitan areas with worse air. The worst five are in California. Also in the top 10 are Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Houston and Atlanta. Florida is only No. 28 on the list of smoggiest states.

But the numbers say what they say.

The Environment Florida report ranks cities according to the number of days when the air was unhealthy to breathe. The Tampa Bay area last year had two of those days.

That's based on the current national standard. That standard was set in 2008 and is not at a level most scientists consider protective of public health. Bump up the threshold to where those scientists think it should be, the report says, and that number of unhealthy days shoots up to 10.

Just last week, according to Environment Florida, Hillsborough County had two days worthy of air pollution advisories. Smog is at its worst in the summer.

We're helped by the fact that our heat tends to come with rain. Rain knocks back some of the ozone that is the main ingredient of smog. But we're hurt by the fact that our public transportation is so substandard.

"Florida may not have industry like cities that we typically associate with smog," said Aliki Moncrief, Environment Florida's state director, "but we do have millions of cars."

"We really don't have a choice but to drive," the Sierra Club's Compton said. "Most of the pollution comes from every one of us."

What can we do? It's not like breathing is optional.

Paul Rolfe from Environment Florida says limit your outdoor activity on bad air days. Compton says check airnow.gov. Jessica Brady from AAA Club South in Tampa says consider now and in the not too distant future buying cars that use less gas or even no gas. Moncrief says write your lawmakers.

All of this comes in a week in which politicians in Washington are arguing over the value of environmental regulations. How much do they help? How much do they cost?

The Obama administration considered updating the 2008 standard but then decided earlier this month to push back the conversation to 2013. The House of Representatives is set to vote on Friday on a bill that would ease some of the existing smog pollution standards. Supporters of environmental regulations say they save lives. Critics say they kill jobs.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8751. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelkruse.

Tampa Bay area smog ranks as second worst in state 09/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 23, 2011 3:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa charter school teacher charged with firing handgun at ground

    Crime

    TAMPA — A Tampa charter school teacher was arrested Sunday after she fired a gun into the ground during a dispute with her boyfriend, police said.

    Melody Patrice Bing, a teacher at the Village of Excellence Academy in Tampa, emerged from her home holding a weapon and dropped it when police confronted her at gunpoint. [Tampa Police Department]
  2. Tuesday's Nothing More concert moved from the State Theatre to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

    Blogs

    Nothing More was one of the highlights of April's 98 Rockfest, a thoroughly entertaining rock outfit with a larger-than-live stage presence.

    Nothing More performed at 98 Rockfest 2017 in Tampa.
  3. Buccaneers-Vikings Turning Point, Week 3: Overreaction vs. reality

    Bucs

    "None of us really know how this group of 53 guys is going to come together and how we're going to play this season."

    Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs torched a porous Bucs secondary Sunday with eight catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. [Getty Images]
  4. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO

    Corporate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Roger Berdusco is stepping down as CEO at Triad Retail Media to pursue other opportunities. [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  5. What to watch this week: Fall TV kicks off with 'Will & Grace,' 'Young Sheldon,' return of 'This Is Us'

    Blogs

    September temperatures are still creeping into the 90s, but fall officially started a few days ago. And with that designation comes the avalanche of new and returning TV shows. The Big Bang Theory fans get a double dose of Sheldon Cooper's nerdisms with the return of the titular series for an eleventh season and …

    Sean Hayes, Debra Messing and Megan Mullally in Will & Grace.