Cincinnati Air Quality a Mixed Bag, Finds 2016 'State of the Air' Report
(April 24, 2016) - Cincinnati, OH
The American Lung Association's 2016 "State of the Air" report found the Cincinnati metropolitan area ranked tied for the 14th most polluted in the nation for year-round particle pollution. Compared to the 2015 report, the area has seen decrease in year-round particle pollution, improving to its best levels ever recorded. This is in keeping with a trend seen across the nation of lower particle pollution levels.
"In spite of improvements, the 2016 'State of the Air' report still finds unhealthful levels of both particle pollution and ozone in the Hamilton County area, putting our local citizens at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular harm, said Shelly Kiser, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio. "Across the nation, the report found continued improvement in air quality, but more than half of the people in the United States live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution."
Each year the "State of the Air" reports 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 be lethal. But the trends reported in this year's report, which covers data collected in 2012-2014, are strikingly different for these pollutants nationwide.
Ozone Pollution in Hamilton County
The metro area continued to reduce ozone pollution in 2012-2014, as seen in the 2015 report. Moreover, ozone levels are still much better than the worst period in 1997-1999, when the area had 54.3 days of unhealthy ozone levels.
Hamilton County had the highest weighted average in the metro area for ozone levels. The county had 13.8 days (an F) with unhealthful levels of ozone, better than the 22 days in 2011-2013.
"Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases," said Kiser. "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."
Nationwide, ozone pollution has decreased because the nation has cleaned up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles. However, according to research, climate change causes warmer temperatures, which makes ozone harder to clean up.
Particle Pollution in Hamilton County
The 2016 report found year-round particle pollution (soot) levels in 2012-2014 lower than last year, and Cincinnati is now tied for the 14th most polluted city. The metro area now meets the annual national air quality standard. The metro area had a weighted average of 0.3 days with unhealthy spikes in particle pollution, an increase from its best ever of zero unhealthy days in 2011-2013.
"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 Kiser. "Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines."
Hamilton County returned to being the most polluted county in the metro area, but improved the metro's level to its lowest ever, and now meets the national standard. Last year's report had Butler County with the highest level, but this year's level resumes the gradual decline from 2003-2005.
Increased heat, changes in weather patterns, drought and wildfires are all related to climate change, which has contributed to the extraordinarily high numbers of days with unhealthy particle pollution in some cities.
"If we can do more to save lives-we should, and we can," Kiser said. "The Lung Association calls on Ohio's leaders to develop a strong strategy for implementing the Clean Power Plan and reinstating our state's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards to reduce harmful emissions from power plants that worsen climate change and immediately harm health."
Learn more about the Hamilton County rankings, as well as air quality across Ohio and the nation in the 2016 "State of the Air" report at stateoftheair.org. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and healthy air, contact the American Lung Association in Ohio at [email protected] or 740-739-0187.