Ozone levels pose problem

Ground level ozone is a significant problem for south county,according to a news release issued by RegionWise.

If the region continues its present course, it will not meet the new air quality standard required by the EPA beginning in 2004. Ozone can cause damage to lungs and is a significant health problem during the summer months for the entire population.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which often affects middle-aged and elderly people, resulted in 11,373 hospitalizations of St. Louis County residents during the years 1993 to 2000, an age-adjusted rate of 13.1 hospitalizations per 10,000 people. A comparison of two time periods (1993 to 1996 and 1997 to 2000) indicates a 7 percent increase in hospitalizations and a 5 percent increase in the age-adjusted rate of hospitalizations. The annual cost of these hospitalizations is about $17.3 million.

In addition, the American Lung Association estimates that over 54,500 adults and 12,600 children in St. Louis have asthma. During that same eight-year period, 11,044 hospitalizations for asthma occurred at an age-adjusted rate of 13.7 hospitalizations per 10,000 people. St. Louis County ranks second in the region’s seven Missouri counties in the age-adjusted rate of hospitalizations for asthma.

About half of the hydrocarbons that contribute to ozone come from ordinary residents as they drive their cars. This emissions could be reduced by car pooling.

Despite efforts by environmental groups to encourage car pooling, more commuters today are driving to work alone than were doing so 10 years ago.At the same time, the aggregate travel time for all commuters in South St. Louis County increased by 7.8 percent. This can be attributed to both longer commute distances and a larger number of commuters.

Increased travel time has a high price tag: additional gasoline costs to south county residents are about $4 million a year.

RegionWise is an initiative that was established by the Danforth Foundation and the United Way of Greater St. Louis.

For more information, visit the Region-Wise web site, at

, or by calling the RegionWise office at 539-4271.