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Ohio Researchers Question Columbus Pollution Rankings

Columbus, Ohio (WCMH) — air quality survey Released in recent weeks, Columbus has become the “most polluted major city in the United States” Some Ohio planners and researchers were scratching their heads, including the Central Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company, ranked Columbus as the number one “major” US city with high concentrations of PM 2.5 in its annual global report. According to IQAir, Columbus beat Cincinnati and Cleveland with its pollutants, as well as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

But as the news spread on social media, MORPC Sustainability Officer Brandi Whetstone was concerned that the data the company highlighted “caused a lot of confusion”.

“When I saw this IQAir report, I paused because it highlighted Columbus as a polluted major city in the United States,” Whetstone said. “There aren’t many of these other issues contributing to the high particulate contamination levels.”

Methodology Review Planning Committee

IQAir ranks countries and cities around the world using PM 2.5 (particulate matter, one of the few indicators used to measure air quality). Kevin Christ, a professor at Ohio University and director of the Center for Air Quality, says PM 2.5 is essentially made up of fine dust particles.

“These are particles that easily enter the lungs through the nose and mouth and, if small enough, enter the bloodstream,” says Christo.

In 2022, IQAir recorded Columbus as having 13.1 micrograms per cubic meter — a World Health Organization standard set between 9 and 10.

But Whetstone said the numbers are a combination of data from both Ohio EPA regulatory monitors and low-cost sensors. MORPC has installed about 20 low-cost sensors throughout Franklin County to track air quality in different areas.

“All data has value, but combining these sources to create such an analysis can be a bit difficult and misleading,” says Whetstone.

Foggy or foggy days can skew results with low-cost sensors, she said.

Whetstone and others using MORPC contacted IQAir about the methodology, but had not yet scheduled a time to sit down as of Tuesday.

How does manufacturing, general growth, affect air quality?

Steubenville — about 150 miles from Columbus and formerly home to a coal mine and steel mill — Once one of many cities cited in groundbreaking particulate matter research Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health examined how air quality harms residents’ health.

As some extractive industries have declined, air quality has generally improved in cities that house them, such as Steubenville. But power generation has never been the center of Columbus’ economy.

Emissions from cars, trucks, and other vehicles are currently the biggest contributor to poor air quality in cities and surrounding areas, says Whetstone. She said it is imperative to lead communities towards bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure and electrify public transport.

“The region has grown tremendously,” says Whetstone. “We need to be able to respond to this growth in a way that balances economic, social and environmental considerations. As we get bigger, we should grow better.”

However, as manufacturers flock to the region and Intel and Honda are adjacent to the city, industry emissions could create the risk of higher particulate pollution levels. Crist said the Ohio EPA will discuss the issue with the plant move.

“If these areas are not being achieved, they should look into it and eliminate as much of the emissions as possible,” said Christo.

https://www.wdtn.com/news/a-study-ranked-columbus-as-the-most-polluted-major-city-in-the-u-s-but-regional-planners-are-questioning-that/ Ohio Researchers Question Columbus Pollution Rankings

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