Report: Smog, ragweed hit the vulnerable hard in DC area

WASHINGTON — Summer smog and the ragweed that impacts the health of vulnerable populations and people with asthma are having a double whammy effect on air quality in the D.C. metro area, the Natural Resources Defense Council said Tuesday.

The group released a data map showing smog and ragweed conditions nationally, and locally, between 2011 and 2016.

“Climate change’s health effects are not abstract; they not far away in distance or in time. They’re really happening right here and now,” said Dr. Kim Knowlton, senior scientist and deputy director at the NRDC’s Science Center and assistant clinical professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

The NRDC said increasingly warm temperatures associated with climate change are translating into longer ragweed seasons at the same time summer smog impacts air quality. It wants the nation, states and communities to reduce ozone and to promote clean energy, energy efficiency and preparedness by having climate change-related health action plans.

“Clean air is so important for good health. As a doctor and as an environmental health researcher I can’t emphasize this enough,” said Dr. Perry Sheffield, of the Mt. Sinai Doctors Faculty Practice.

“My research and others continue to uncover how air pollution causes not just respiratory problems but also health effects on brain, heart, skin and other organs,”  Sheffield said, adding that lungs can be affected in the short and long term.

The group warns that problems with allergies and asthma cost the nation’s economy money because of sick days, higher medical costs and a yearly rise in the number of premature deaths and heart problems.

See ozone and ragweed conditions for your area.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.


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