American Lung Association “State of the Air 2014” Shows Indianapolis’s Air Quality Worsening

Evidence warns that changing climate will make it harder to protect human health

(April 30, 2014)

Indianapolis, IN — The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2014” report released today shows that Indianapolis has seen an increase in year-round particle pollution (soot) levels compared to the 2013 report.  This is in spite of a trend seen across the nation of lower particle pollution levels. Indianapolis has experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone (smog) and more days when short-term particle pollution has reached unhealthy levels. Indianapolis ranked as the 20th-most polluted city in the nation for year round particle pollution, a worse ranking than last year’s report.

Overall, “State of the Air 2014” found that nearly half of all Americans – more than 147 million – live in counties in the U.S. where ozone or particle pollutions levels make the air unhealthy to breathe.  The 15th annual national report card shows that, while the nation continued to reduce particle pollution -- a pollutant recently determined to cause lung cancer -- poor air quality remains a significant public health concern. Additionally, a changing climate is making it harder to protect human health. Especially alarming is that ozone levels  (smog), a powerful respiratory irritant and the most widespread air pollutant, were much worse than in the previous year’s report. 

“The air in Indianapolis is certainly cleaner than when we started the ‘State of the Air’ report 15 years ago,” said Meghan McNulty, Director of Mission Services.  “The continued reduction of year-round particle pollution is thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants. However, the increases in unhealthy days of short-term particle pollution tell us we still have work to do. Reducing ozone pollution will be particularly challenging because warmer temperatures increase risk for ozone pollution, and climate change sets the stage for higher ozone levels in the future. We must set stronger health standards for pollutants and clean up sources of pollution in Indianapolis to protect the health of our citizens.”

Looking at air quality in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Indianapolis’s air pollution increase shows up in Marion County, which increased its year-round particle pollution, receiving a failing grade.  Marion County received an F for short-term particle pollution, because of too many days of unhealthy particle levels. Particle pollution levels can spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end (short-term) or remain at unhealthy levels on average every day (year-round). Particle pollution can penetrate deep into the lungs and even into the bloodstream, leading to premature deaths, asthma attacks and heart attacks, as well as lung cancer.

“State of the Air 2014” also finds that Indianapolis’s ozone levels improved, still resulting in an F grade in Marion County where the peak levels from metro area are monitored. Ozone (smog) is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. When ozone is inhaled, it irritates the lungs, like a bad sunburn. It can cause immediate health problems and continue days later. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death.  

“From our first “State of the Air” report to this most recent one, we have seen that the Clean Air Act delivers significant health benefits,” said Tanya Husain, Executive Director. “However, the past 15 years have also confirmed that air pollution is a more serious threat to our health than we’d previously known.” 

“Congress needs to continue to ensure that the provisions under the Clean Air Act are protected and are enforced.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and every state must have adequate funding to monitor and protect our citizens from air pollution and new threats caused by increased temperatures.”

The American Lung Association calls for several steps to improve the air everyone breathes:

  • Clean up power plants.  The EPA needs to reduce carbon pollution.  Ozone and particle pollution that blows across state lines must be controlled. In the next year, the Administration has pledged to set standards for carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. 
  • Strengthen the outdated ozone standards. The EPA needs to set a strong, health-based standard to limit ozone pollution. Strong standards will drive the needed cleanup of ozone across the nation.
  • Clean up new wood-burning devices. The EPA needs to issue strong standards to clean up new wood stoves, outdoor wood boilers and other residential wood-burning devices. 
  • Fund the work to provide healthy air. Congress needs to adequately fund the work of the EPA and the states to monitor and protect the nation from air pollution.
  • Protect the Clean Air Act. Congress needs to ensure that the protections under the Clean Air Act remain strong and enforced.

The American Lung Association in Indiana urges the public to join the fight for clean air and to learn how to protect themselves and their families by visiting www.stateoftheair.org

Background
The “State of the Air 2014” report uses the most recent quality-assured air pollution data, collected by federal, state and local governments and tribes in 2010, 2011, and 2012.  These data come from official monitors for the two most widespread types of pollution, ozone and particle pollution. The report grades counties, ranking cities and counties based on scores calculated by average number of unhealthy days (for ozone and for short-term particle pollution) and by annual averages (for year-round particle pollution). 

About the American Lung Association in Indiana
Our mission is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lungin.org

2014 SOTA