Columbus Area Reports Best Air Quality, Finds 2016 'State of the Air' Report
(April 24, 2016) - Columbus, OH
The American Lung Association's 2016 "State of the Air" report found the Columbus metropolitan area ranked 44th most polluted in the nation for year-round particle pollution. Not only are these improved levels, but these are the area's best levels ever recorded, meeting national air quality standards.
"The 2016 'State of the Air' report demonstrates that the protections of the Clean Air Act are having positive impacts on year-round particle pollution levels in the Columbus metropolitan area," said Shelly Kiser, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio. "Through both federal measures and state renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, we can continue to see cleaner air and healthier residents of Central Ohio."
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 Franklin County
The metro area continued to reduce ozone pollution in 2012-2014, and ranked tied for 37th most polluted city for ozone in the nation.
Franklin County reduced its weighted average to 12.3 days (an F) of unhealthy levels of ozone from 16.9 in 2011-2013. This is the area's best level ever. Even though the levels are much too high, they are a vast improvement from the worst period, with 49.3 days in 1997-1999.
"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 Franklin County
The 2016 report found zero days with unhealthy levels of year-round particle pollution (soot) levels in the area in 2012-2014, ranking it as one of the nation's cleanest cities. The metro area had its best levels ever for year-round particle pollution in 2012-2014, slightly improving its levels from 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."
On the county level, Franklin County improved its level of year-round particle pollution to its best annual level yet. This year's levels continue the steady decrease in annual particle pollution levels from a high in 2000-2002.
Included in this metro area are Delaware, Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Guernsey, Hocking, Knox, Licking, Logan, Madison, Marion, Morrow, Muskingum, Perry, Pickaway, Ross and Union Counties.
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 Franklin 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.