American Lung Association "State of the Air 2015" Report Shows Washington Air Quality Mixed
(April 29, 2015) -
Contact: Carrie Nyssen, 360-921-1484
The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2015” report released today shows that from 2011-2013 the Seattle-Tacoma metro area had more unhealthy particle pollution days, worsening in the nationwide rankings from 21st unhealthiest region in America in 2010-2012 to 18th in this year’s report. Washington’s cities had mixed reports this year, with some metro areas breaking records for healthy ozone days while others continue to report increases in dangerous short-term particle pollution.
This outcome parallels the mixed results of the national report. More than 4 in 10 Americans – nearly 138.5 million people – now live in counties where ozone or particle pollution levels make the air unhealthy to breathe, according to the 2015 “State of the Air” report. The 16 annual national report card shows that improvement in the nation’s air quality was varied, with many cities experiencing strong improvements, while others suffered increased episodes of unhealthy air, and a few even marked their worst number of unhealthy days since the report began.
“The air in the Puget Sound region is cleaner than when we started the “State of the Air” report 16 years ago,” said Renée Klein, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific. “The continued reduction of year-round particle pollution is in part due to steps taken to reduce pollution from cleaner vehicles and wood smoke reduction programs.”
In the data-gathering period of 2011- 2013, the Seattle-Tacoma region had more days of unhealthy short-term particle pollution and reported worse year-round particle pollution, a trend that differs than the rest of the nation. Yakima, Portland, Eugene and Missoula also experienced worse year-round levels.
In Pierce County, a greater number of unhealthy particle pollution days were reported in this data-gathering period than in 2010-2012 (17 days versus 13 days). The high of 17.2 unhealthy days was recorded in the 2000-2002 report, and counts have fluctuated since.
In measurements of ozone pollution, the Seattle-Tacoma metro area significantly reduced its average number of unhealthy ozone pollution days from the “State of the Air 2014” report (covering 2010-2012) to this year’s report (2011-2013). “Continuing this trend of reducing ozone pollution will be particularly challenging because warmer temperatures increase the risk for ozone pollution, and climate change sets the stage for higher ozone levels in the future,” Klein stated.
The Yakima metro area reported less encouraging results. It was ranked 13th most polluted for short-term particle pollution (from 21st in last year’s report), and had its worst-ever year, reporting more unhealthy days on average. The Yakima region does not measure ozone pollution. Overall, this finding continues the worsening trend of unhealthy air quality days in the Yakima metro area that began in the 2007-2009 data collection period.
“Over the past 16 years of this report, we have seen that the Clean Air Act delivers significant health benefits,” said Klein. “However, these intervening years have also confirmed that air pollution is a more serious threat to our health than we’d previously known and is further complicated by climate change. The time is now to take action and adopt policies to reduce Washington state’s impact on climate – we need the political will to make it happen.”
“We need to more fully protect public health from the dangers of air pollution and the American Lung Association is at the forefront of this movement,” added Klein. “EPA must set and enforce strong standards to protect public health from the impacts of carbon pollution and adopt stronger, health-based standards for ozone pollution. Congress must ensure that the Clean Air Act remains intact and enforced.”
Each year, “State of the Air” analyzes data gathered on particle pollution (both 24-hour and annual) and ozone. 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 where it can lead to premature deaths, asthma attacks and heart attacks, as well as lung cancer. Ozone is associated with premature death from cardiovascular disease, stroke and respiratory illnesses, as well as damage to the central nervous and reproductive systems.
Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s “State of the Air” report came in the continued reduction of year-round particle pollution in the eastern half of the nation thanks to cleaner power plants and cleaner diesel fleets. This year’s report also provides more evidence that a changing climate will make it harder to protect human health from the dangers of air pollution. The impact of climate change is particularly apparent in the western United States, where heat and drought create situations ripe for episodes of high particle pollution, a pollutant recently found to cause lung cancer.
The American Lung Association in Washington 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.
The “State of the Air 2015” report uses the most recent quality-assured air pollution data, collected by federal, state and local governments and tribes in 2011, 2012, and 2013. 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).