Idaho Air Quality Mixed, Finds American Lung Association's 2015 'State of the Air' Report
(April 30, 2015) -
The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2015 report released today shows that Idaho’s air quality has progressed in some areas but worsened in others. Compared to the 2014 report, Shoshone County has seen an increase in year-round particle pollution (soot) and fails to meet the national air quality standards despite a national trend of lower particle pollution levels. Though the data show fewer unhealthy days of short-term particle pollution than last year, the county still received an “F” grade with 41 unhealthy days on record. Lemhi County also receives a failing grade and is now ranked the 6th most polluted county in the nation in short-term particle pollution, though it has seen some improvement in year-round particle pollution since last year.
Franklin County, part of the reporting area in Logan, UT, had more days of unhealthy levels of particle pollution than last year and is ranked 8th in the nation for short-term levels. Though levels of year-round particle pollution worsened from 2014, the area still gets a passing grade because the results are below the current national air quality standards.
Nationwide, more than 4 in 10 Americans – nearly 138.5 million people – live in counties where ozone or particle pollution levels make the air unhealthy to breathe, according to State of the Air 2015. The 16th annual national report card, which looks at data around air pollution (both particle pollution and ozone pollution) from 2011-2013, shows that improvement in the nation’s air quality was mixed, with many cities experiencing strong improvements, others suffering increasingly unhealthy air, and a few cities experiencing their worst number of unhealthy days yet.
“Too many of our communities continue to have too many days with unhealthy particle pollution, and these days are especially harmful for those with lung disease, like asthma or COPD,” said Heather Kimmel, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Idaho. “Reducing pollution will only become more challenging as warmer temperatures increase the risk for ozone and particle pollution and make cleaning up the air harder in the future. We need stronger air quality standards to limit pollution as well as continued cleanup of the current sources of pollution in Idaho to protect the health of our citizens.”
Reports on ozone pollution levels were more positive: Coeur d’Alene, Franklin County and Idaho Falls-Rexburg-Blackfoot collection areas all reported zero days of unhealthy levels of ozone in the air.
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, and 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.
“We know that the Clean Air Act works because we’ve seen Idaho’s air quality improve over the past 16 years, and we’ve seen the health benefits that have come with cleaning up the air,” added Kimmel. “The EPA must move forward to fully implement the Clean Air Act for all pollutants that threaten public health, including finalizing a strong Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants and stronger ozone air quality standards. Congress must also ensure that the provisions under the Clean Air Act are protected, implemented and enforced. The EPA and every state must have adequate funding to monitor and protect our citizens from air pollution and new threats caused by increased temperatures.”
More Safeguards Needed to Protect Health
The American Lung Association calls for several steps to safeguard the air everyone breathes:
• Strengthen the outdated ozone standards. The EPA must adopt an up-to-date ozone limit that follows the current health science and the law to protect human health. Strong standards will drive much needed cleanup of ozone pollution across the nation.
• Adopt a strong final Clean Power Plan. The EPA needs to issue tough final requirements to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
• Protect the Clean Air Act. Congress needs to ensure that the protections under the Clean Air Act remain effective and enforced. States should not be allowed to “opt out” of Clean Air Act protections.
• 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.
To see how your community’s air ranks in State of the Air 2015, to learn how to protect yourself and your family from air pollution, and to join the fight for healthy air, visit: www.StateOfTheAir.org.
The American Lung Association’s 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).