Ozone air pollution, year-round fine particle pollution results best ever in Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna metro area for at least fourth straight year, finds 2018 State of the Air Report
National ranks improve for metro area for all three pollutant measures, according to American Lung Associations 19th annual air quality report
Updated Trend Charts and rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are available at Lung.org/sota on April 18, 2018 at 12:01 a.m. EDT.
(April 18, 2018) - PARKERSBURG, W.V.
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The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of the Air” report found that measures of fine particle pollution in the two-state, three-county Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna, WV-OH metro area continued to show good performance and steady improvement. While ozone air pollution throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic worsened when compared with last year’s report, this pollutant showed very modest improvement in the metro area. The “State of the Air” report gives results for three measures of air pollution—days with elevated ozone, and daily and annual values for fine particle pollution.
For ozone, the metro area, including the West Virginia counties of Wirt and Wood, as well as Washington County, Ohio, showed slight improvement. For this pollutant, the area posted its best outcomes for the fourth consecutive report enough to improve its ranking from 78th worst in last year’s report to 88th worst out of 227 across the country.
For the fifth consecutive year, the metro area met the current national standard for year-round particle pollution, according to the 19th annual “State of the Air” report. It also marked the ninth consecutive report in which the level for the worst county improved. The metro area’s ranking continued its steady improvement with respect to others, from 53rd worst three years ago, to 64th worst in last year’s report, and now to 73rd worst of 187 across the country.
Only Wood County was monitored for the daily measure of fine particle pollution. It has posted results for nine years without an increase, all of them passing grades, and the most recent four of them being “A’s.” This placed the county, and hence the metro area, on the lists of cleanest in the country for this pollutant. The metro area’s rank also improved, from 100th worst last year to 112th worst of 201 metro areas in the current report, with fewer areas nationwide being tied for “Cleanest.”
Compared to the 2017 report, the Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna, WV-OH metro area has seen a slight decrease in unhealthy days for ozone and a continuing gradual improvement in the year-round measure of particle pollution. This is despite a trend seen across the nation for higher ozone and in keeping with a trend for lower particle pollution levels than in last year’s report.
“The 2018 ‘State of the Air’ report finds that unhealthful levels of ozone in the Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna metro area can still occasionally put our citizens at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and greater difficulty breathing for those living with a lung disease such as COPD. As long as there are many days with high ozone levels, people with lung diseases such as asthma will continue to need medical attention,” said Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “Across the nation, the report found continued improvement in air quality, but still, more than four in 10 Americans – 133.9 million – live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution, where their health is at risk.”
The trends in this year’s report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2014-2016, confirm the ongoing challenges to reduce each pollutant in the changing political and outdoor climate.
“We can and should do more to save lives,” Stewart said. “The American Lung Association in West Virginia calls on our members of Congress to defend the Clean Air Act, currently under threat from those who want to weaken this effective public health law. We also call on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement and enforce the law instead of trying to roll back major safeguards such as the Clean Power Plan and cleaner cars, both steps that help us fight climate change and reduce air pollution.”
For 19 years, “State of the Air” has provided a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution, also known as smog, and particle pollution, also called soot. 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 increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.
Ozone Pollution in Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna
Compared to the 2017 report, Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna showed modest improvement, but both counties monitored for this pollutant, Wood and Washington, retained their grades of “C” as reported last year.
“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Stewart. “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. Ozone can even shorten life itself.”
This report documents how warmer temperatures brought by climate change make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up. This year’s report also revealed that ozone levels increased in most cities nationwide, in large part due to warmer temperatures in 2016, the second hottest year on record in the U.S. Over the past decades, ozone pollution has decreased nationwide because the nation has cleaned up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles.
Particle Pollution in Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna
The 2018 report also found year-round particle pollution levels were somewhat lower than in the 2017 report, continuing a steady decrease over nine years, with values much better than the national standard.
Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution.
“Particle pollution is made of soot, chemicals, and 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 Stewart. “Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines.”
“State of the Air” 2018 also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. While Wood County and its metro area continue to be found among the nation’s cleanest for this measure, in other areas of the country, many of the daily spikes in fine particle pollution were directly linked to weather patterns such as drought or to events such as wildfires, which are likely to increase because of climate change. In some localities, high emissions from wood-burning devices have also been a factor.
While the report examined data from 2014-2016, this 19th annual report provides online information on air pollution trends back to the first report covering 1996-1998. Learn more about West Virginia rankings, as well as air quality in the Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna metro area and across the nation in the “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and healthy air, contact the American Lung Association in West Virginia Communications Director Ewa Dworakowski by calling 717-971-1123 or 717-503-3903 (cell) or emailing [email protected].
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.