Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Wisconsin ozone pollution must be ameliorated

Seven Wisconsin counties near Lake Michigan have dangerous levels of ozone pollution, putting residents at danger for negative health effects
Sophia Scolman

A report released by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources identified that seven Wisconsin counties do not meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 ozone standards. All of these seven counties lie on the shore of Lake Michigan, which experts interviewed by Wisconsin Public Radio claim is the reason these ozone standards are not being met.

According to Wisconsin DNR spokesperson Craig Czarnecki, being on the lake means that air pollution from Chicago and Milwaukee is pushed northward by wind patterns. Eastward wind patterns then blow that pollution toward the land on the shore, toward those seven counties.

T he EPA said Wisconsin only contributes about 8-16% to its own ozone concentration while other states contribute about 42-48% according to WPR. Thus the ozone pollution and concentration in Wisconsin is not necessarily due to the state’s activities, but to other states whose pollution travels northward on Lake Michigan’s wind patterns.


The EPA identifies ozone concentrations at a standard of 70 parts per billion as generally safe for both children and adults, this concentration prevents most negative health effects. In those seven Wisconsin counties, the ozone concentration exceeds 70 ppb, according to WPR.

High ozone concentrations have multiple negative health effects, including difficulty breathing, asthma development, airway inflammation and aggravated lung disease conditions, according to the EPA. Children are most susceptible to negative effects from ozone pollution because as their lungs are developing, they are more likely to have asthma, are outside more often and breathe in more air-per-pound of body weight than adults do, according to the EPA.

Federal government must ensure funding for anti-hunger programs during shutdowns

Even for those who do not have existing respiratory issues, ozone makes breathing more difficult for Americans than any other pollutant according to the American Lung Association.

EPA standards are meant to prevent these negative health effects, but the seven Wisconsin counties face serious risks with their ozone concentration above the standard.

Ameliorating ozone pollution is relatively difficult as it involves the transition away from coal and fossil fuels as the main source of energy according to the American Lung Association, which the American economy is incredibly dependent on. Additionally, the issue in Wisconsin cannot be solved solely by the Wisconsin DNR, as much of the ozone pollution comes from Chicago and other states surrounding Lake Michigan.

Changes that locals can make include composting leaves instead of burning them, changing car oil regularly and utilizing energy efficient appliances, according to WPR but these small changes are unlikely to make a huge impact.

There is an EPA program known as the Good Neighbor Plan which intends to limit pollution from coal and gas power plants whose emissions may affect surrounding states. But some, including Czarnecki, believe this program doesn’t do nearly enough to limit the traveling pollution some states emit, especially pollution related to trucking and cars.

Public eviction records place tenants’ rights at risk

But changes to the EPA’s air pollution rules and standards are often controversial because they are incredibly expensive to maintain. Additionally, few standards or requirements will be successful if the U.S. economy does not transition away from coal and fossil fuels. While power plants and car engines are still burning these materials, there will be ozone pollution in the U.S.

Wisconsin is not the only state with issues regarding ozone concentration, in fact the state just barely cracks the list in the 25 cities most polluted with ozone, Chicago-Naperville IL-WI-IN ranks 17th according to the American Lung Association. California has multiple cities in the top 10, including Long Beach, Visalia, Bakersfield and Fresno. Other states include Utah, Colorado, Texas, Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Mexico.

Similar to Wisconsin, most of these states have geographic conditions that affect ozone concentrations such as hot and dry temperatures with lots of sun. But geographic conditions are not the only factor to blame — the American Lung Association identifies that climate change is undercutting any progress made by ozone pollution restrictions.

As climate change continues and the U.S. economy continues to rely on coal and fossil fuels, the chances to ameliorate effects from ozone pollution diminish.

Though it is difficult to achieve, the EPA must put harsher restrictions on the Good Neighbor Plan to benefit communities who are impacted by ozone pollution from other states like Wisconsin. These restrictions should include ozone pollution from trucking and cars to ensure restrictions are more encompassing of the pollution that travels through the air.

Wisconsin proposal to ban public nudity too broad in scope

Additionally, on a more complicated note, Wisconsin and the U.S. as a whole must attempt to steer away from using fossil fuels and coal to prevent the pollution of the environment.

The U.S. must fight climate change as best as it can. Serious restrictions need to be implemented to protect those in the seven ozone-polluted Wisconsin counties and those across the U.S. from facing adverse health effects or premature death due to ozone pollution.

Emily Otten ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *