Record Heat Pushes Ozone Levels

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Record hot temperatures this summer helped create the highest air pollution levels in Tennessee since 1988, a University of Tennessee civil and environmental engineer said Thursday.

Dr. Wayne Davis, who conducts annual air pollution studies in the state, said searing temperatures also have been a factor in reducing air quality and visibility in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Davis said summer heat reacted with automobile emissions, power plants, industries and other pollution sources to push ozone levels nearly beyond allowed federal limits on some days.

“This summer ozone levels looked a lot like 1988, which is the last time Tennessee exceeded the federal limit of 125 parts per billion for a single day,” Davis said. “Ozone levels in some areas this year reached 124 parts per billion one day.”

Under the Clean Air Act of 1990, areas that exceed ozone emissions standards more than three days in a year are penalized by restrictions on automobiles, industry and other pollution sources.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials said they are considering issuing air quality and visibility advisories because of worsening conditions.

Davis said ozone this year reached unusually high levels — nearly 120 parts per billion — in the Smokies because of heat and pollution. He said air quality in the park should be viewed as a regional problem because pollution can come from hundreds of miles away.

“If we exceed the standards in an area like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is possible that an area four or five states large could be declared non-attainment. That would have serious implications to the regional economy.”

Contact: Dr. Wayne Davis (615-974-7728)

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