Ozone Pollution Up, Particulates Down In American Lung Association Air Pollution Report Card For Minnesota

(April 30, 2014)

SAINT PAUL, MINN. -- Minnesota received mixed grades in the annual American Lung Association State of the Air Report, which was released today.  Three counties’ scores for ozone pollution declined by one grade from last year’s report: Anoka County was given a “C” grade, and Carlton and Scott counties both earned “B” grades for ozone. On the bright side, six Minnesota counties saw a one grade improvement in particulate pollution: Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Olmsted and Scott counties all earned a “B” grade for particulate pollution, Ramsey County’s score improved from a “D” to a “C” grade this year. The Twin Cities metro area had their best ever ranking for annual particle pollution in the 15 years the ALA has issued its annual report card on air quality. A link to the State of the Air Report website can be found here.

The State of the Air Report uses data collected at state-owned air quality monitors that is certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This year’s report analyzed data from the three-year period of 2010 to 2012. Grades are determined by the number of air quality alerts for ozone or particle pollution that occurred during those three years.

Ozone and particle pollution can trigger asthma attacks, put people at higher risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and are a particular health concern for people with preexisting lung disease, the very young and the elderly.

Though the state did not receive any failing grades this year that does not mean Minnesotan’s don’t need to worry.  The levels of ozone and particle pollution recorded on monitors put the state very close to limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health. A wide variety of organizations are working together, with the state of Minnesota, cities and counties, to reduce emissions and prevent the state from falling below those EPA standards. 

“Emissions from vehicles represent the single largest source of air pollution, and are a big concern to many environmental and health organizations,” said Robert Moffitt, communications director of the American Lung Association in Minnesota.  “Efforts to move to cleaner fuels and better engines, reduce unnecessary driving and idling, and boost mass transit use can have an immediate impact on air pollution.”

A variety of ongoing efforts will help Minnesota earn good marks in future reports including increasing the percentage of biodiesel sold statewide from the current five percent blend (B5) to a 10 percent blend (B10).  The change is scheduled to begin on July 1, and will last until the fall, when the fuel switches back to a B5 blend for the cold-weather months.

In addition to move to a higher biodiesel blend, Minnesota can also reduce vehicle related pollution by using cleaner-burning fuels like E85 or natural gas, by building an infrastructure for electric vehicles and by installing pollution-reducing technology on older diesel vehicles.

Rochester and Austin were cited in the report for having no ozone alerts during the three-year period (2010-2012) covered by the report, and Duluth was ranked in 8th place for cities “cleanest for year-round particle pollution.”

Minnesota’s grades reflected a national trend for declining scores for ozone pollution, which was attributed to hotter summer temperatures during the reporting period.  Temperature is a key factor in the development of ground-level ozone, which is a known lung irritant.

2014 SOTA