Cleveland Region Air Quality Improving, Finds 2016 'State of the Air' Report
(April 24, 2016) - Cleveland, OH
The American Lung Association's 2016 "State of the Air" report found the Cleveland area ranked as the 11th most polluted city in the nation for year-round particle pollution. Compared to the 2015 report, Cuyahoga County has seen a gradual 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 Cleveland, 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 Cuyahoga County
Compared to the 2015 report (2011-2013), the Cleveland metropolitan area experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year's report, but remained ranked as 27th most polluted for ozone. This earned them a grade of F again this year.
"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 Cuyahoga County
The 2016 report found year-round particle pollution (soot) levels in 2012-2014 slightly lower than the 2015 report. Nationwide, the best progress in this year's report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution. In fact, Cleveland along with 15 other cities reached their lowest levels ever. However, the metro area still fails to meet the annual national air quality standard. This year's levels continued a gradual downward trend from their worst level of annual particular pollution recorded in 2000-2002.
"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."
The 2016 report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. According to the 2016 report, the Cleveland metropolitan area has had a slight improvement in the number of days with unhealthy particle pollution and ranked tied for 34th for most polluted for short-term levels of particle pollution. Cuyahoga County maintained its D grade but improved its average of polluted days. Their worst ranking occurred in 2000-2002.
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 Cleveland's 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.