By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – The Environmental Protection Agency proposed Thursday changing the classification for the Denver metro area and northern Colorado because air quality standards have not been met by the state. It’s a concern for leaders and health experts as the impact can be felt by some patients on a daily basis.

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“People love to come to Colorado because of the environment and the lifestyle of the mountains and generally what is thought to be clean air,” said Dr. David Beuther, a pulmonologist of National Jewish Health. “While we may not have the worst air, it is maybe not as great as people might hope it to be.”

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Beuther told CBS4 on Friday they see patients who often cannot spend time outside because the air quality affects their health significantly. They are struggling on a regular basis, not just on ozone action days or when alerts are sent out about the air quality.

“They’re starting to say, ‘I can’t go out, I have to stay indoors, I have to keep the windows closed and turn the air conditioning on,'” he added. “They often suffer increases in their day-to-day symptoms and they can even become ill and end up needing to take up extra medications or go to the hospital or the emergency department.”

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The proposal by the EPA suggests reclassifying a part of Colorado as “serious” instead of “moderate” because standards were not met based on data collected between 2015 and 2017. The standard was set by the EPA in 2008.

“EPA is proposing this action as required by the Clean Air Act,” EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin said in a news release. “We will continue to support the state as they revise plans and implement new measures that will reduce ozone-forming emissions across the many sources contributing to air quality impairment along Colorado’s Front Range.”

The change in classification is called for in the Clean Air Act, which goes on to say that the State of Colorado would be responsible for developing enforceable rules to comply with the national air quality standards. If the change in status goes forward, Colorado would have until July 20, 2021 to reach the stand first set in 2008.

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“For the most part, if you have a chronic illness, this is affecting your health,” said Beuther. “If Colorado can work together with other agencies to improve our air quality, then we will see improved health in Colorado.”

The agency will start a 30-day public comment period on Aug. 15 and hold a public hearing on Sept. 6.

Shawn Chitnis


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