Staff Editorial: Local steps to reduce pollution warrant applause

The D.C. area has seen a steady decline in days with hazardously poor air quality. (image courtesy of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments)

While many essential environmental protection initiatives have abstract global aims, others have a direct impact on daily life close to home. A new Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments report has identified one such success story.

Efforts to reduce pollution have demonstrably reduced the D.C. area’s ground-level ozone, formed by the reaction of pollutants in hot sun, the report states. The region has seen a steep decline in days with high ozone levels — which all too frequently made it difficult to breathe in D.C. summers, especially for vulnerable individuals, merely a decade ago.

The best-known air quality metric is color-coded, with orange, red and purple signifying progressively more dangerous levels of ground-level ozone. This year saw just eight Code Orange days and no Red or Purple, compared to 48 Code Orange, 14 Code Red and one Code Purple in 2007. Data from the Council of Governments show a fairly steady and substantial improvement from 1997 to the present.

Kudos to the D.C. government and others who have taken steps to reduce pollution and protect human health in the region. We look forward to seeing further progress.