The counties in Northeast Wisconsin that sit upon the Lakeshore have received “F” grades for their air quality due to ozone pollution, which largely travels up to the Lakeshore from Milwaukee and Chicago.
The report comes from the American Lung Association. You can find the reports for your city and state here.
The ozone pollution is created when atmospheric conditions combine with pollutants that come from emissions from factories, cars, semis, and more.
“So ozone is actually the result of a chemical reaction between different types of pollution,” Local 5 Chief Meteorologist Luke Sampe said. “And it turns out a lot of this pollution is found in our big cities, Milwaukee, Chicago. So, cities that are hundreds of miles away, is where the majority of our ozone at ground level is produced.”
The ozone pollution is largely created by the millions of people living in Milwaukee and Chicago, along with businesses operating factories and plants.
“You might be asking yourself, ‘How does it get up here?” Sampe said. “What happens is, it turns out that ozone is almost twice as heavy as atmospheric air, so it wants to sink immediately down to our lowest point. And what’s our lowest point, around here, it’s Lake Michigan. Acts like a big bathtub and gathers all of the ozone particulates in one spot. So you have this high concentration of ozone that originates around the big cities of Milwaukee and Chicago. All we need is a south wind to bring all of that up along the Lakeshore, and then eventually we find that we have high concentrations of ozone parked right out over the lake.”
Air quality affects all of us, but especially the young, the old, and those with asthma.
“It’s a scary unknown,” Devone Smith of Sturgeon Bay said. “You know I live in, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most beautiful parts of Wisconsin and you know I’m out here enjoying a run, trying to stay out in nature and be healthy, and then you hear these reports, it’s almost terrifying.”
The solutions to this major health issue are few. Cutting down on transportation can be hard in major cities, but more efficient ways of traveling, like taking the bus or train, can help.
“And again, talk to our sister cities, and say, look, we love where we live, we want you to come here and enjoy the beauty that is Door County, but you’re killing us, you know with all this extra driving, walk sometimes, catch a bus, there’s a lot of opportunities you know and it’s miniscule in that aspect, but if you really think about it you know you have millions of people driving around, that millions makes a difference,” Smith said. “So I’m thinking it is a serious conversation that we should probably sit down and talk about, and figure out what we need to try to do to improve things and make things better.”
You can learn more about the reports and air quality at lung.org.