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The Supreme Court throws out a Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks; a look at how social media algorithms and Shakespearian villains have in common; and states receive federal funding to clean up legacy mine pollution.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

MD air quality highlighted during Asthma Awareness Month

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Monday, May 13, 2024   

May is Asthma Awareness Month and a report on air quality shows mixed results for Marylanders.

The American Lung Association recently released its 25th annual "State of the Air" report. Findings showed nationally, four in 10 Americans live in places with unhealthy air.

In Maryland, the Washington-Baltimore-Arlington area saw the number of unhealthy ozone days fall to 4.3 per year, which is a best-ever score for the metro, but it still received a failing grade in the report.

Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, associate professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University, said there is no substitute for good air quality.

"As a lung doctor, I have good medicines, I have great medicines, great inhalers to help my patients with lung diseases," Galiatsatos noted. "The challenge is, all of those inhalers will be undone by poor air quality, I don't have a single inhaler to offset that."

The report showed more than half a million people in Maryland are living with asthma.

Maryland tracks fine particle pollution in 10 counties. Four saw worse numbers compared to the last report. Baltimore and Cecil counties both scored a 'B' for particle pollution with the remaining eight counties receiving an 'A.'

Particulate is a mixture of tiny bits of solids and liquids suspended in the air, and comes from numerous sources, including factories and combustion engines, along with wildfires and wood-burning stoves. The report spanned the years 2020 to 2022, so the effect of last summer's wildfire smoke has yet to be calculated.

Galiastatos emphasized the increasing frequency of wildfires represents a threat to vulnerable populations.

"During the bad wildfires, not only do we see an influx of hospitalizations for lung issues, but we saw the same thing for heart issues," Galiastatos observed. "This is going to have immediate effects to the lungs and to the circulation with inflammation, and likely to last not just an immediate sense, but long term if we're exposed to this constantly and chronically."

The report calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to set stronger national standards for ozone, and finalize rules limiting carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants.


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