Thursday, April 30, 2009

Breathing Not So Easy in These Travel Spots

Let's assume you are looking for a place to hold meeting—perhaps a large convention or trade show. Does the air quality of the destination come in to play? If not, maybe it should. The American Lung Assn. (ALA) just released its findings on the state of air in America. The organization rated American cities based on three air quality criteria: ozone, short-term particle spikes and long-term particle averages. The years considered were 2005 to 2007. As part of its report, ALA ranked the United States' 10 most polluted cities in terms of ozone and the 10 most polluted cities by amount of particulates. Can you guess which cities have the most serious problems with air quality?

According to ALA, the following are the worst cities for ozone (from worst to less worse): Los Angeles; Bakersfield, Calif.; Visalia-Porterville, Calif.; Fresno-Madera, Calif.; Houston; Sacramento, Calif.; Dallas; Charlotte, N.C.; Phoenix; and El Centro, Calif. The cities faring the worst based on particulates (from worst to less worse): Bakersfield, Calif.; Pittsburgh; Visalia, Calif.; Birmingham, Ala.; Hanford, Calif.; Fresno, Calif.; Cincinnati; Detroit; Los Angeles; and Cleveland. The leading cause of ozone: automobiles. Of particulates: diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and burning of wood and other combustibles.

I suspect you will never see data like this in any convention and visitors bureau brochure or meetings destination pitch. ALA's study does point out, however, that air quality has improved in some cities and some of the current worst offenders are taking strong action to reduce their pollution contributions.

The travel industry, with its energy-consuming buildings (powered mostly by electricity generated by coal-burning plants) and dependency on automobile and air transportation, is a large contributor to the problems these cities are having with air quality. It is up to us to do what we can to design and operate buildings that are more energy efficient, and to encourage the use and development of transportation that has less of a negative environmental impact.

Maybe someday soon we will all breathe cleaner air.

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