An American Lung Association report ranking the Madison area among the nation's 25 worst cities for fine particle emissions uses 2007-2009 data, and area air quality has improved since then, says Lisa MacKinnon, project coordinator for the Dane County Clean Air Coalition.
"While we can't take our improved air quality for granted and need to continue to take actions to reduce emissions for public health and the economy, it is also important to make sure people know we are going in the right direction right now and to learn that taking these actions do indeed result in positive changes," MacKinnon writes in an email to Grass Roots.
MacKinnon is responding to a Friday blog post about the Lung Association ranking and a local environmental justice activist's concern that complacency by government and inattention by local media keep air quality off the political agenda.
In response to the blog, MacKinnon posted data from more recent fine particle (and ozone) pollution samplings and what steps coalition members have taken to reduce those emissions while producing electrical power or running fleets of motor vehicles - two main sources of the air pollutants.
Members of the coalition include the city of Madison, Dane County, the state of Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin and Madison Gas and Electric.
Falling levels of fine particle and ozone pollution are a national trend, so new federal emissions rules or the economic recession's effect on industrial production and vehicle use might be playing a role, too, the coalition reports.
A look at how the more recent Madison data ranks in comparison to updated data on other cities was not available.
The way that alerts of elevated air pollution, "or Clean Air Action Days," get out to the public has changed, too, MacKinnon says. People with health issues exacerbated by air pollutants - as well as businesses and individuals who want to limit their emissions -- are more likely now to get the message directly through the coalition by email or checking its website.
Press releases to local traditional media outlets on action alerts or programs to help reduce emissions seem more often now to get lost in the shuffle, she says.
That would add up to less general awareness of - and muted public response to -- reports of air pollution levels, I'd guess. But the Clean Air Coalition has information for those who want it.