King Co. smog ranks high

Associated Press

SEATTLE — King County is in the top 5 percent of U.S. counties when it comes to airborne toxins, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

Traffic congestion, population growth and industrial emissions all are contributing to the air pollution, say federal regulators studying the problem.

The figures are based on 1996 air samples provided by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. The results don’t take into account any subsequent population increases, traffic congestion or cleaner burning cars.

"It identifies our region … as having some of the worst levels in the nation in respect to toxics," said Dennis McLerran, executive director of the Puget Sound agency.

"It’s caused us to have some significant concern about that."

The EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment is a detailed look at 33 common air pollutants believed to pose the greatest potential risks to public health in urban areas.

For instance, King County, Los Angeles, New York City — all with a lot of traffic congestion — rank high in levels of the chemical benzene, a known carcinogen found in gasoline.

There are no outdoor airborne standards for the 33 pollutants, only health benchmarks for exposure levels.

The survey, released in August, is a first step toward better understanding air quality in urban areas. The next step, a health risk assessment, is expected to be completed by early next year.

"This is bean counting, not an assessment of risk of human exposure. We’ll be using this for human risk assessment, but not until early next year," EPA spokesman Dave Ryan said.

The national study marks a new phase in estimating air pollutants, exposure and health risks, said spokesman Larry Altose with the state Department of Ecology.

"It’s extremely premature to say we have an unhealthy air toxic situation in this region," Altose said. "All we know from this EPA project is that we rank high compared to other counties, just as other metropolitan regions rank high in the U.S.

"In general, in regional terms, air quality meets the standards — not that it does by a large degree," he added. "The ozone standard is met by a thin margin, and we meet a carbon monoxide standard by a margin almost as thin."

Ozone and carbon monoxide are among six pollutants with ongoing standards, monitors and regulations.

For the past year, Ecology has studied some of the pollutants with a $200,000 EPA grant. The agency also was recently awarded a $500,000 grant to further monitor airborne toxins.

Industrial areas in Seattle place the region among four in the country to warrant such grants. The Department of Ecology is now monitoring south Seattle industrial areas and Beacon Hill. Four additional monitoring sites are planned.

"Traffic problems directly correlate with air-quality concerns, and heavy population equals heavy air pollution," Altose said.

"We’re going to get a handle on toxic air pollutants as soon as we can."

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Lynnwood woman sentenced for stabbing Bellingham woman while she slept

Johanna Paola Nonog, 23, was sentenced last week to nine years in prison for the July 2022 stabbing of a woman she’d recently met.

Granite Falls
Man presumed dead after fall into river near Granite Falls

Around 5 p.m. Sunday, the man fell off smooth rocks into the Stillaguamish River. Authorities searched for his body Monday.

Pilot found dead near Snoqualmie Pass after Arlington flight

Jerry Riedinger’s wife reported he never made it to his destination Sunday evening. Wreckage of his plane was found Monday afternoon.

Firefighters respond to a fire on Saturday morning in Lake Stevens. (Photo provided by Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue)
1 woman dead in house fire east of Lake Stevens

Firefighters responded to find a house “fully engulfed in flames” in the 600 block of Carlson Road early Saturday.

YMCA swim instructor Olivia Beatty smiles as Claire Lawson, 4, successfully swims on her own to the wall during Swim-a-palooza, a free swim lesson session, at Mill Creek Family YMCA on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Splish splash! YMCA hosts free swim lessons around Snohomish County

The Y is building a “whole community” of water safety. On Saturday, kids got to dip their toes in the water as the first step on that journey.

2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

The Eternal Flame monument burns in the center of the Snohomish County Campus on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Elected officials to get 10% pay bump, or more, in Snohomish County

Sheriff Susanna Johnson will see the highest raise, because she was paid less than 10 of her own staff members.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.