People who flee big cities for the beach or the mountains this summer are finding as much smog on vacation as they left at home, according to a survey of government monitoring data by environmentalists.
Sometimes, the breezes at the beach are even more noxious than the urban fumes, because the air arrives at the shore after loading up with pollutants in the cities and baking for hours in this summer's strong sun and relentless heat. And the mountaintop trails wind along the Appalachian chain at the same altitudes where pollution from the Midwest drifts by.
The tip of Cape Cod, Mass., has had 11 smog violations this summer, compared with four for Boston; the New Jersey Shore is tied with Newark, N.J., for violations; and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has had more pollution than any city in the South, except for Atlanta, according to the analysis.
"Even the Hamptons, which are a playground for the wealthy, who think they're getting away from the dirty city, has had almost as many dirty days as New York City," said Jayne Mardock, an author of the report, which was issued by the Clean Air Network and the Clean Air Task Force. She and others called for tighter controls on cars and power plants.
The smog season is about half over, and this year is worse than last, said Mardock. "The heat wave that we've had this summer has become a smog wave," she said. Nationally, since May 1, there have been only 14 days when the smog standard was not exceeded somewhere, she said. The report has only incomplete data for California, and other data is preliminary.
But Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Carol Browner said that it was perfectly possible for the air to be worse in the country than in the city. "Pollution knows no boundaries, and the long-distance transport of ozone is a very serious problem in this country," she said. Smog can blow 300 or 400 miles, she added.