Oregon 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 Oregon’s ozone levels have improved but that particle pollution has worsened in many areas of the state. Portland and Eugene are two cities that reported worse year-round particle pollution than in previous years, though they remain below the current national standards.
This year’s “State of the Air” report analyzed data collected from 2011-2013, and short-term particle pollution presented a more serious problem this year than in the 2014 report. Eugene experienced worsened short-term particle pollution, now tied for 20th most polluted city in the nation in this category, down from last year’s ranking of 28th. Lane County, the only county in the Eugene data collection area, increased its unhealthy particle days from 3.3 in 2010-2012 to 5.0 days in this year’s report.
The collection area of Lake County had its worst average number of unhealthy particle pollution days since the report began 16 years ago, reporting 9.3 days unhealthy air days versus 3.2 days in last year’s report. It ranks as the 22nd most polluted county for short-term particle pollution in the nation. Jackson and Klamath counties also received failing grades for short-term particle pollution.
The Portland-Vancouver-Salem measurement area also reported increased unhealthy days of short-term particle pollution, worsening in national rankings and now tied for 28th most polluted region in the country. Areas of this region are also notable for year-round particle pollution, as Washington County has seen levels rise to 8.2 µg/m3 in 2011-2013, from 7.3 µg/m3 in 2010-2012. It is now the most polluted county in this data collection area for year-round particle pollution.
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 Carrie Nyssen, Vice President for Advocacy and Air Quality at the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific. “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 Oregon to protect the health of our citizens.”
Reports on ozone pollution levels were more positive: The Eugene area data collection area reported no days with unhealthy levels of ozone, so it remains on the list of cleanest cities in the nation for ozone, as in the 2013 and 2014 reports. Multnomah County records the most ozone pollution in the metro area, but only 0.3 days on average, which is the same as in 2010-2012. This maintains the fewest days on average 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, 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’ve seen the health benefits that have come with cleaning up the air, and the EPA must move forward to fully implement the Clean Air Act for all pollutants that threaten public health,” added Nyssen. “This includes 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).