2018 ‘State of the Air’ Report: Bragging rights go to parts of Wisconsin for having some of the cleanest air in the nation
(April 18, 2018) -
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Want to breathe clean air? If you’re in Wisconsin, that means the western, central and northern parts of the state. The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of the Air” report found five metro areas in the Upper Midwest that made the “cleanest” cities lists for both ozone and particle pollution. Eau Claire/Menomonie and La Crosse/Onalaska both recorded zero high pollution days over the report’s three-year data collection period. Ashland, Forest, and Taylor counties also had perfect scores, followed by Vilas and Marathon counties with only one violation for ozone. Grades included:
|County||Ozone Grade||Short-Term PM||Yearly PM|
|Grant||Did Not Collect (DNC)||A||Pass|
“Wisconsin residents in these communities will be happy to know that the air they breathe day in and day out is clean and healthy. Like Wisconsin, across the nation, the 2018 report found continued improvement in air quality,” said Dona Wininsky, spokesperson for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin. “However, residents in other parts of the state aren’t quite so lucky, and still battle air quality problems,” she added. More than four in 10 Americans – 133.9 million – live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution, where their health is at risk.
Each year the “State of the Air” provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.
“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Wininsky. “When older adults or children with asthma breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room. Ozone can even shorten life itself.”
This report documents how warmer temperatures brought by climate change make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up. This year’s report showed that ozone levels increased in most cities nationwide, in large part due to warmer temperatures in 2016, the second hottest year on record in the U.S. Over the past decades, ozone pollution has decreased nationwide because the nation has cleaned up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles.
“Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution. Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal,” said Wininsky. “Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and old, dirty diesel engines.”
“State of the Air” 2018 also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Many of these spikes were directly linked to weather patterns like drought or to events like wildfires, which are likely to increase because of climate change.
The Lung Association in Wisconsin calls on our members of Congress to defend the Clean Air Act, currently under threat from those who want to weaken this effective public health law. We also call on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement and enforce the law instead of trying to roll back major safeguards like the Clean Power Plan and cleaner cars, both steps that help us fight climate change and reduce air pollution.
While the report examined data from 2014-2016, this 19th annual report provides online information on air pollution trends back to the first report covering 1996-1998. Learn more at Lung.org/sota.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.