Arlington, D.C. Get ‘F’ Grade For Smog

by ARLnow.com April 27, 2011 at 9:18 am 4,304 32 Comments

The American Lung Association has assigned Arlington and the District a failing grade for smog levels.

In a report released this morning, the association said the Washington region has the 14th highest ozone (smog) levels in the country. Arlington itself was slightly less polluted than the District, with an average of 9.8 ‘high ozone’ days compared to 10.7 days in the District.

The average number of high ozone days in Arlington has been been falling steadily since reaching a high of 32 from 1997 to 1999 (see chart, left).

“The progress we have made here in the District is due to the Clean Air Act; it has proven that cleaning up pollution results in healthier air to breathe,” said Dennis Alexander, Regional Executive Director for the local office of the American Lung Association. “Unfortunately, the D.C. metro area is still one of the most polluted areas in the nation and we still have a long way to go to achieve healthy air. This is exactly why we cannot stop now.”

Arlington received a grade of  ‘C’ for particle pollution, also known as soot, while the District received a grade of ‘D.’ The Lung Association says there are more than 17,000 people with asthma and 7,000 people with chronic bronchitis in Arlington. Those groups are at greater risk from pollution, the association said.

  • A great report showing nothing but the known fact that the higher the density of people, the more polution we produce in a given area. Until we change our ways of using fossil fuels, coal-generated electricity, and a throw-away culture this will just get worse.

    To the politicians and builders: Why not leave some trees behind when you develop? They help clean the air and water!

    To the politicians: The United States has an abundance of natural gas, which is much cleaner burning than gasoline and engines are ready to go. Plus, natural gas already has a vast distribution system. No brainer people!

    Let’s put more grassland back in instead of paving everything over around here. Pavement holds heat which contributes to ozone. Every greenie talks about green roofs. That’s great, but why take all of the grass way in the first place? Oh, yeah, it is soooooo expensive to cut it. Sigh….

    ok…sorry for the rant on this report. Duh.

    • dynaroo

      Great point about trees – just leave them.

      About lawns – replace some of the grass with trees and shrubs and groundcover, and you not only have to work less to mow and maintain, you also pollute less with power mowers, which are the dirtiest polluters of all.

      • Yep, use a manual push mower. Or use electric and charge it with a solar panel. Otherwise, you are just burning coal to get that electricity. Ground covers are perfect too. Ornamental grasses usually only have to be trimmed once per year.

        Do this type of thing enough and the Potomac suddenly gets a little cleaner too.

        • dynaroo

          And you can spend time lying in a hammock enjoying your beautiful landscape instead of spending all day mowing an ugly sterile one.

      • Curious George

        Buy some goats to “mow” the lawn. When the neighbors complain just say the goats are your “green” lawn mower.

        And in a pinch you can always eat the goats

        • V Dizzle

          Also, you can attach solar panels and batteries to the goats; you can plug in directly to the goat and humanely kill them with an electric tool, or even simply electrocute them when it’s dinner time. Plus, they are little methane refineries if you’re creative.

        • dynaroo

          You may joke, but you really can rent goats for that.

          One of the websites for this is, of course, rent-a-goat.com.

          • V Dizzle

            I suppose “rent” implies they want them back, and in one piece.

          • dynaroo

            Depends on how hungry you are I guess.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      Right on, Overgrown Bush!

  • OX4

    Well, the trend is impressive, anyway.

  • MC 703

    Where were they measuring? I did not see that information anywhere. Just curious. Guessing it was on the B-R corridor? Or maybe an average of a few testing sites?

  • Pingback: Metro getting its own lyrics via VA songwriter; Arlington Republicans not happy with bikes taking up car spots; Acid leak at Alexandria plant considered safely contained; and Don’t breathe too deep Arlington, you failed your smog test | Northern Vir()

  • YTK

    Oh yes– build MORE high rises- cut down more trees – reduce the metrobus service — Pollute Pollute Pollute so the powers that be can line their pockets……..

    • dynaroo

      Building high density eats fewer trees than building low-density somewhere else. And in Arlington, most high-density is replacing existing buildings or lots, not forested areas. High density also reduces pollution by allowing more people the option to use alternatives to cars.

      • V Dizzle

        You’re forgetting the oft overlooked, skytrees.

      • True, but you are also concentrating the pollution into a smaller area. Smog, particulates, and ozone increase with this type of development. Yes…get rid of the cars but is that really going to happen? You could even argue the CO2 spewed out by people becomes a problem at some critical density.

        • dynaroo

          No, you’re creating less pollution per person because people don’t have to drive as much, or as far. Heating and air conditioning a large building is more efficient than a bunch of single homes too. So it’s a net decrease in pollution.

  • Eponymous Coward

    If we got rid of all this namby-pamby bikesharing, more people would be in cars and protected from smog! You sweaty biking hipsters are causing cancer!


    But seriously, that chart suggests we’ve made progress since the 90s. We’ve gone from completely awful to merely bad.

  • Max

    Right. It’s the county board’s fault for removing some grass and trees. This has nothing to do with the pollution caused by the highways in Northern Virginia that lead into Arlington…

  • G

    I think a lot of the problem comes from cars… we have too many polluting cars sitting in traffic in Arlington and DC. Until they all are 100% electric, drawing their power from non-coal power plants, we will continue to have terrible smog.

    • South Arlington

      In all truth, the drop in air pollution is probably tied in with so many of the new gas powered vehicles being low emission vehicles or ultra low emission vehicles.

  • Bender

    What do you expect?

    With anti-car policies, purposely and perversely designed to obstruct traffic and make private transportation more inconvenient, which increase traffic jams and the time spent idling at stop lights, you are going to have more fumes spewing. Typical Arlington government only ends up making things worse with their assbackward buffoonery.

    • G

      Couldn’t you also say that pollution could even be worse if it was more convenient to drive, resulting in more people driving?

      • Perhaps. But, only a portion of the drivers are people who live in Arlington. What about the folks who work here and have to drive from other places? Ingress and egress should be easy and quick if pollution were the only deciding factor (and we know it isn’t).

        • dynaroo

          Arlington may be “anti-car” but overall the region is not. Yet our entire road system isn’t keeping up with drivers. The cause of road congestion is a lack of money, or the will to raise it, not anti-car policies.

          You can’t just declare that we need to build more roads, because you can never catch up with the car-dependent development that roads encourage. Cars are just plain inefficient and destined to crowd the roads. You have to create alternatives.

          • It may very well be a lack of money now. But, it was caused by poor planning by politicians. IF the region were planned the way RBC was, it would be so much better. But, politics gets in the way, pockets get lined, and we all end up in gridlock. Going foward, we should mandate certain long-term planning requirements as the region continues to develop. Going forward willy-nilly is going to eventually force me to move out of this place because I can’t take the havoc. (Some might say my relocation would be a good thing!)

          • dynaroo

            “Pockets get lined?” The only deep pockets I know in that debate are those of developers, and they’re on the pro-building side.

            Come on. Stop blaming politicians. The reason is that people don’t want to pay the taxes necessary to build roads.

            And why should they? The new roads are already choked with traffic from new sprawl development. At least somebody in the suburbs of this region – Arlington – is trying to make a qualitative change instead of throwing good money after bad.

          • madisonmanor

            I was going to ignore the “pockets get lined” retort because it’s not the primary reason, although I could swear I read on arlnow about a developer’s campaign contributions to Ms. Favola’s state senate bid, so I can’t dismiss it entirely.
            But the politicians ARE to blame for some of this – they took a perfectly viable depart of human services building AT A METRO SITE (you know – where there was a ‘NO RIGHT TURN INTO OUR DEVELOPMENT’ sign) and moved the entire location to Sequoia, which can ONLY be accessed by driving (shuttle busses pollute, too). The cost of the move alone was over $2M, and they make it less accessible. This type of short-sightedness won’t solve any of the traffic problems of the county.

    • Eponymous Coward

      With anti-car policies, purposely and perversely designed to obstruct traffic and make private transportation more inconvenient, which increase traffic jams and the time spent idling at stop lights

      Which “anti-car policies” increase time spent at traffic lights?

  • Rebecca

    so what you’re saying is I quit smoking for nothing?

  • It’s an easy problem to solve. Close all roads south and west of Arlington at the border.


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