American Lung Association "State of the Air 2015" Shows Improvements in Hawaii's Air Quality
(April 30, 2015) -
The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2015” report released today shows that Hawaii is on the right track for continuing to improve air quality, though the unique issue of vog still presents challenges.
Honolulu is a metro area of note in this year’s “State of the Air” report, which has been tracking air quality measures throughout the United States for 16 years. This year’s report analyzed air quality data from 2011-2013. Honolulu ranked as one of the cleanest cities in the country for levels of ozone, as it did in the 2013 and 2014 reports. With only one reported unhealthy air day in 2011-2013, Honolulu County made improvements in its short-term particle pollution, reducing not only the overall number of days with reported particle pollution, but also the measured amount of particle pollution in the air, down to 7.1 µg/m3 from 8.4 µg/m3 in last year’s report.
Elsewhere in the state, the data collection area of Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina made the lists for cleanest cities in the nation in year-round and short-term particle pollution. Both the Kauai and Maui collection areas received “A” grades for short-term particle pollution. Hawaii County received a “C” grade for short-term particle pollution but still received a passing grade for year-round particle pollution, coming in well below the national standard.
Across the country, results collected in “State of the Air 2015” were mixed. The 16th annual report found that 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. 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.
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.
“Despite positive grades this year, 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,” said Kim Nguyen, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Hawaii. “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.”
Vog is also an ongoing health issue for many of Hawaii’s residents and visitors. “Hawaii’s researchers continue to study vog and we, along with our partners, distribute recommendations to those who have respiratory health issues in dealing with vog,” added Nguyen.
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 Hawaii 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).