East Tennessee Ozone Levels High

KNOXVILLE – The city of Knoxville has made the American Lung Association’s list of US cities with the worst air pollution.

The group’s latest “State of the Air” report showed that more than 142 million Americans live in cities with high levels of air pollution.

University of Tennessee air quality specialist Dr. Wayne Davis said it’s not good news that Knoxville was on the top-ten list, but he understands why.

“We do have a large number of coal-fired power plants in East

Dr. Wayne Davis

Tennessee,” Davis said. “Those power plants emit nitrogen oxides, which are one of the major components of the formation of ozone pollution.”

Davis said a majority of the air pollution in Tennessee comes from power plants within the state and from surrounding states. The rest, Davis said, comes from cars and trucks.

The ALA report cited several California cities in its list: Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, Visalia, Merced, and Sacramento. Other cities mentioned were Houston, TX, Atlanta, GA, Charlotte, N.C., and Rock Hill, S.C.

Davis said Knoxville might have made the list because the surrounding mountains trap and concentrate airborne ozone.

“We are in a situation where we’re in a valley,” Davis said. “And the American Lung Association monitors ozone pollution not only in downtown Knoxville, but in higher elevations like Blount County and Sevier County, which often record higher ozone levels.”