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20th Annual State of The Air Grades Reveal Wildfire and Extreme Heat Impacts on Clean Air Progress

State of the Air 2019 report shows continued challenges and some progress in California

Trend charts, rankings and demographic data for metro areas and counties are available at Lung.org/sota

(April 24, 2019) - SACRAMENTO, CA

For more information please contact:

Bo Smith
[email protected]
310-359-6386

The American Lung Association's 20th annual State of the Air report shows that once again California cities top the lists of most polluted in the United States. State of the Air 2019 highlights that decades of clean air progress is being challenged by climate change impacts. Higher temperatures and catastrophic wildfires captured in this year's report increased ozone and particle pollution, the most widespread forms of air pollution threatening public health.

"California communities face too many unhealthy air days, and we know that these burdens hit our most vulnerable residents hardest," said Will Barrett, Director of Clean Advocacy with the American Lung Association in California. "We must confront the reality that climate change is making the job of cleaning our air much more difficult. We need our leaders to ensure all Californians benefit from sustainable development, zero emission transportation options and the transition away from fossil fuels to protect public health."

The State of the Air 2019 report found that despite decades of progress, over 90 percent of Californians live in areas affected by unhealthy air at some point during the year. By all three measures in the report, California cities rank as the most polluted in the United States for unhealthy ozone ("smog") days, particle pollution ("soot") days or year-round particle levels.

  • 7 of the 10 most ozone-polluted cities in the United States are in California.
    • Los Angeles ranked #1
  • 6 of the 10 US cities most polluted by annual particle levels are in California.
    • Fresno ranked #1
  • 4 of the 10 US cities most polluted by short-term spikes in particle pollution. 
    • Bakersfield ranked #1

Success in cleaning California's air is increasingly complicated by climate change factors, as highlighted in the State of the Air 2019 report. This report covers ozone and particle pollution monitoring data collected during 2015, 2016 and 2017, which were notable in their connection to climate change:

  • 2015-2017 were the three hottest years on record in the United States, which set the stage for widespread ozone increases.
  • 7 of the 20 most destructive wildfires in California history occurred in 2015-2017, including the Thomas Fire and the Wine Country fires, driving particle pollution impacts higher for millions of Californians.

"As a pediatric allergist, ozone and particle pollution pose significant risks to my patients," said Dr. Sonal R. Patel, a pediatric allergy specialist practicing in Los Angeles. "Children, seniors, people with asthma and lower income individuals face greater risks due to unhealthy air, which can cause asthma attacks, respiratory and cardiovascular harm, and even early death. Cleaning up our California's air is vital to all our health."

Key Report Findings

San Joaquin Valley and Southern California residents continue to face the most difficult air pollution challenges in the United States.

  • Bakersfield, Fresno and Visalia all saw improvements in unhealthy particle pollution days but continue to earn failing grades for all three pollutant categories.
  • Despite decades of progress, the Los Angeles area saw increases in all three pollutants in the 2019 report and ranks among the top ten for each pollutant.

Rising temperatures helped push ozone higher in State of the Air 2019

  • 23 California counties saw increased ozone over the last report, six cities increased ozone averages:
    • Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Visalia, El Centro, Redding and Chico.

Wildfire smoke added to particle pollution burdens across California

  • 32 California counties saw increased particle pollution days; 25 saw increased annual particle levels
    • For the first time, not a single Bay Area County earned an "A" for short-term particle pollution as 2017 wildfires significantly increased particles across the region
    • Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties both dropped from an "A" to an "F" for short-term particle pollution following the 2017 Thomas Fire.
      • Santa Barbara and Salinas dropped off cleanest cities lists in recent years due to wildfires.

California's air quality is affected by many factors and sources, but cars, trucks, buses, freight and other transportation sources are by far the largest cause of pollutants that harm local air quality and drive climate change. Transportation pollution in California is also dependent on how our communities are designed and whether local land use decisions and transportation investments increase or decrease driving and exposures to pollution.  California's Clean Air Act authority to enact more health-protective policies must be protected and land use and transportation planning must be aligned with clean air goals. 

The public can learn more about California's grades including local air quality data for each county and metropolitan area at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with air quality and medical experts, please contact the American Lung Association in California at [email protected].

State of the Air 2019: Most Polluted Cities List

Ozone Top Ten

Ozone Top 25

Particle Days Top Ten

Particle Days Top 25

Annual Particles Top 10

Annual Particles Top 25

California Cities

7 of Top 10

10 of Top 25

4 of Top 10

9 of Top 10

6 of Top 10

6 of Top 25

 

US Rank

Unhealthy Ozone Days

US Rank

Unhealthy Particle Pollution Days

US Rank

Annual Particle Pollution

1

Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA

1

Bakersfield, CA

1

Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA

2

Visalia, CA

2

Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA

2

Bakersfield, CA

3

Bakersfield, CA

3

Fairbanks, AK

3

Fairbanks, AK

4

Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA

4

San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA

4

Visalia, CA

5

Sacramento-Roseville, CA

5

Missoula, MT

5

Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA

6

San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA

6

Yakima, WA

6

San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA

7

Phoenix-Mesa, AZ

7

Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA

7

Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV

8

San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA

8

Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT

8

El Centro, CA

9

Houston-The Woodlands, TX

9

Seattle-Tacoma, WA

9

Cleveland-Akron-Canton, OH

10

New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA

10

Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV

10

Medford-Grants Pass, OR

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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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