The Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia metro area is the 18th most-polluted in the country for fine particle pollution, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association.
And the main culprit?
Cough, hack: Tacoma and its sooty suburbs.
“Our ranking is driven largely by the challenges we face in the Tacoma-Pierce County area, which has been designated as violating clean air standards for fine particle pollution by the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Craig Ken-worthy, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
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Emissions from diesel and gasoline engines are the biggest contributors to fine particle pollution, but in Pierce County, smoke from wood stoves are a major problem, too.
The county’s air quality consistently drops in winter when more people heat their homes by burning wood.
More than 1,100 uncertified wood stoves have been replaced since 2007 through programs jointly operated by the Clean Air Agency, the City of Tacoma and Pierce County.
Still, the area has about 75,000 wood stoves and fireplaces, according to City of Tacoma estimates.
In the Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2011” report, the Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia metro area ranked 120th out of 220 metro areas for ozone pollution.
Ozone is formed when various pollutants – primarily exhaust from motor vehicles – cook in summer heat and sun.
The central Puget Sound region complies with current federal ozone pollution standards, but the EPA is to release a more-protective standard soon.