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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

State starts monitoring CdA ozone

From staff reports

Concerned with the impact of North Idaho’s high rate of growth on air quality, a state agency has begun monitoring ozone pollution near Coeur d’Alene.

An electronic monitoring station has been installed on the Rathdrum Prairie, near the Coeur d’Alene airport, to track the irritating chemical, said Mark Boyle, an air quality analyst with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

“With the population growing, we figured we probably should take a look at it,” Boyle said.

High above the Earth, naturally occurring ozone serves as a life-saving blanket against radiation. The chemical also forms at ground level when pollution is baked by hot temperatures and sunlight, Boyle said. This ground-level ozone irritates the eyes and lungs and can aggravate heart and breathing problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Prolonged exposure can cause permanent damage to the lungs. High levels of ozone also reduce crop yields and damage forests, according to the EPA.

Data collected by the state of Idaho is available on the agency’s Web site, and the information will also be shared with the federal government, which produces nationwide ozone tracking maps. Until the recent monitoring station was installed, these national maps essentially went blank at the Idaho-Washington border, Boyle said.

North Idaho’s relatively cool temperatures should help protect the area from the dangerously high ozone rates experienced by some congested areas, including Southern California and the Midwest, but Boyle said the region’s air quality is beginning to suffer from a decade of sustained growth.

Apart from the ozone pollution, North Idaho also has its share of particulate pollution from wood stove smoke in the winter and summertime smoke from forest fires and field burning, Boyle said.

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