Journalist Lee Bergquist explains why Wisconsin feels it is being unfairly treated with the new ozone rules of the Trump administration.

The American Lung Association has awarded poor ratings to Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Kenosha counties for a key measure of pollution of air in its annual report card national report on the state of air quality.

Poor signals for the three counties are smog, a summer air pollutant that can reach levels that They are not healthy, even for healthy people and those who work or exercise outdoors. 659010] RELATED: Foxconn's industrial operations would represent a major new source of air pollution in the region

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Ozone, or smog, is created when heat and light interact with pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, which come from factories, power plants and emissions from cars and trucks.

When levels increase, it can aggravate respiratory problems, especially in children who are active outdoors, adults who participate in moderate or strenuous activities, and people with lung diseases such as asthma.

They also earn grades from "F" Door, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Walworth and Rock counties, with scores based on the number of days air monitors measure pollutants above certain levels between 2014 and 2016.

According to the Lung Association, counties with the highest number of days when air quality that did not meet federal standards were: Kenosha, 28; Sheboygan, 25; and Milwaukee, 14.

Waukesha County obtained a "C". Washington County does not have an air monitor, so the association does not qualify it. Racine County was not classified either because it has data from the required three years of air pollution history at a new monitoring site.

Other degrees throughout the state: "C" for Brown, Fond du Lac and Outagamie; "B" for Marathon and Dane; and "D" for Kewaunee.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources disagrees with the association's methodology and says, for example, that the group has high ozone days more liberally than accepted government practice.

DNR spokesman Jim Dick also said in an email that the group's annual report skews the results, so some counties get "erroneously" poor ratings when, in fact, they meet the current federal standard for ozone .

That national standard is in the process of being stricter. The association is using the strictest measure before it has been fully implemented by the US Environmental Protection Agency. UU

The EPA is moving at a rate of 70 parts per billion, down from 75 parts per billion. The change was advanced for the first time during the Obama administration after a government scientific review panel concluded that there was a negative impact on ozone health at lower levels.

EPA is expected to decide soon whether certain regions, including southeastern Wisconsin, will be designated to meet, or violate, the new ozone standard.

In a preliminary determination in December, the EPA discovered that the region and some other counties along Lake Michigan would not comply.

RELATED: Wisconsin wants to break with the Trump administration in the ozone rules before the Foxconn development.

Wisconsin officials have since challenged that conclusion and say they would meet the new requirements if it were not for the pollutants coming in from Illinois and Indiana.

Dona Wininsky of the Wisconsin Lung Association said her group believes the EPA should discover that southeastern Wisconsin violates the new standards.

"They are lungs of people," he said. "They do not care where the ozone comes from."

Looking back at the old Wisconsin report cards, Janice E. Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy for the association, acknowledged: "There has been a great improvement."

The reasons: new cars in the roads emit less pollutants; gasoline is cleaner; it has been required that power plants install more robust pollution controls; and public services are closing old coal plants in favor of natural gas or renewable sources.

RELATED: The We Energies coal power plant at Pleasant Prairie will be closed in 2018

The region will also benefit from the recent shutdown of the We Energies power plant at Pleasant Prairie in Kenosha County .

Despite a downward trend, the warm spring and summer of 2016 – it was the second warmest year recorded in the state – raised the ozone levels on the monitors along the shore of Lake Michigan.

There is also good news: the association gave good marks for another measure known as particle pollution, also known as soot. Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Waukesha obtained an "A" and Kenosha a "B".

Other grades of soot throughout the state where there were measures: an "A" for Marathon and "B" for Brown, Outagamie, Dane, Rock and Sheboygan.

Soot is microscopic particles that can enter the lungs and bloodstream.

Dick, of the DNR, said particle pollution had fallen by 30% in the last decade.

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