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Ohio Air Quality Receives Mixed Grades for Particle and Ozone Pollution in 2019 ‘State of the Air’ Report

American Lung Association’s 20th annual air quality report finds more than 4 in 10 Americans live with unhealthy air quality, Cleveland and Cincinnati both ranked among top 25 most polluted cities for year-round particle pollution.

Editor’s Note: Trend charts and rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are available at Lung.org/sota

(April 24, 2019) - Cincinnati, OH

– The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report found Cleveland the ninth most polluted city in the nation for year-round particle pollution, with Cincinnati ranking not far behind at 13th worst. However, despite its their rankings, Cleveland actually earned its first ever passing grade for year-round particle pollution and Cincinnati earned an “A” grade for short term particle pollution. The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. The 20th annual report also found Cleveland had more high ozone days than in the 2018 report.

“Ohio residents should be aware that we’re breathing unhealthy air, driven by emissions from power plants and extreme heat as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk,” said Ken Fletcher, Director of Advocacy of the Lung Association in Ohio. “In addition to challenges here in Cleveland, Cincinnati and across the whole state, the 20th-anniversary ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that more than 4 in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we’re heading in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting public health.”

This year’s report covers the most recent quality-assured data available collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2015-2017. Notably, those three years were the hottest recorded in global history.

Each year the “State of the Air” provides 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
Compared to the 2018 report, the Cleveland-Akron-Canton metro area experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report, ranking 29th most ozone polluted in the nation. Cincinnati and Columbus improved and had fewer unhealth days for ozone, while Dayton experienced more unhealthy ozone days. 

“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Fletcher. “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 showed that ozone levels increased in most cities nationwide, in large part due to the record-breaking global heat experienced in the three years tracked in the report.

Particle Pollution
The 2019 report also found year-round particle pollution levels in many cities across Ohio were their lowest ever, including Cleveland, Akron and Columbus. However, despite improvements, Cleveland and Cincinnati still ranked among the top 25 in the nation for worst year-round particle pollution. Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution.

“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 Fletcher. “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” 2019 also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The report found that Cincinnati and Dayton had fewer short-term spikes in particle pollution, while the opposite was true for Cleveland, Akron and Columbus, which had more days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels.

While the report examined data from 2015-2017, this 20th annual report online provides information on air pollution trends back to the first report. Learn more about city rankings, as well as air quality across Ohio and the nation, in the 2019 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, and threats to air quality, contact Ken Fletcher, 248-220-5213, [email protected]

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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 coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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