Marylanders would breathe easier if the federal government ordered a reduction in the sulfur content of gasoline, according to a new study. And the Chesapeake Bay likely would be cleaner as well.
A report released today by a group of state air-quality regulators in New England plus New Jersey and New York finds that lowering the sulfur in gasoline would significantly reduce ozone pollution, or smog, from Virginia north to Maine.
Sulfur in gas contributes to emissions of nitrogen oxides, or NOX, in car and light truck exhaust. Those oxides are a major ingredient in the ozone pollution, or smog that fouls the summer air, and they also enable fine-particle pollution, which can affect breathing year-round.
Some of that NOX also falls out of the air, and the nitrogen in it worsens the nutrient pollution of rivers, lakes and marine ecosystems like the bay. Airborne deposition of nitrogen from cars, trucks and power plants is estimated to be nearly 20 percent of all the nitrogen affecting the Chesapeake from all sources, including sewage and farm and urban runoff.