Wisconsin Air Quality Improved, but Grades Get Worse, Finds 2016 ‘State of the Air’ Report
Despite continued improvement in air quality, local residents remain at risk from health effects of unhealthy air, according to new report from the American Lung Association
Editor’s Note: Trend charts and rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are available at www.stateoftheair.org Regional Wisconsin highlights on page two.
(April 20, 2016) - WI
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The American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” report found that while overall air quality has improved, new ozone standards recently announced by the EPA mean that people are still being affected by air pollution in an unhealthy way.
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.
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, the new EPA standard of 70ppb (down from 75ppb) demonstrates that the people in Wisconsin are still being exposed to dangerous levels of ozone.
“Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases, said Linda Witucki, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin.
“When people with lung disease breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room.”
Due to the new standard, no Wisconsin city made the list of cleanest cities for ozone, unlike previous years.
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. Increased heat, changes in weather patterns, diesel exhaust, drought and wildfires can all contribute to the formation of particle pollution.
The following highlights for Northeastern Wisconsin were included in the 2016 report:
Green Bay-Shawano metro, includes Brown, Kewaunee, Menominee, Oconto and Shawano counties
Ozone. The metro area had fewer unhealthy ozone days in 2012-2014, and ranked improved to tie for 73rd.
• Kewaunee County, WI, fewer unhealthy days on average at 6.0, down from 6.8 in 2011-2013. All averages are based on the stronger 2015 ozone standard.
Particles. The metro area reduced both its average (24 hour) unhealthy days and its year-round level for particle pollution to best ever levels in 2012-2014.
• Brown County, WI, most particle pollution in the metro area, cut its weighted average to 1 day (B grade) from 2 days (B grade), significantly improving since its worst particle pollution level of 6.7 days in 2008-2010.
• Brown County, WI, also reached its lowest ever year-round levels, meeting the national air quality standard.
Ozone. The metro area reduced its ozone pollution in 2012-2014, and improved its ranking to 22nd from 20th for most polluted in the nation in 2011-2013.
• Sheboygan County experienced a weighted average of 18.0 days (an F) in 2012-2014, down from 21.2 in in 2011-2013 and much better than the worst period in 2001-2003, when the metro area recorded 32.0 days on average each year. However, the best period came in 2008-2010, when the area only experienced 8.0 days of unhealthy ozone each year. All averages are based on the stronger ozone standard adopted in 2015.
Learn more about Wisconsin county rankings, as well as air quality across the nation in the 2016 “State of the Air” report at stateoftheair.org.