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Bellingham Receives Passing Grades for Air Quality while Climate Change Threatens Air Quality, According to 'State of the Air' 2019 Report

Wildfires in the area strongly impact air quality

(April 24, 2019) - BELLINGHAM

For more information please contact:

Holly Harvey
[email protected]
(206) 512-3292

The American Lung Association's "State of the Air" 2019 report found that Bellingham has some of the cleanest air in the nation for ozone and year-round particle pollution, and received a passing grade of "C" for 24-hour 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. Differing from last year, Bellingham is no longer on the list for cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution.  The report tracks short-term spikes in particle pollution and many of these spikes in Bellingham were directly linked to events like wildfires, which are increasing in frequency and intensity in many areas due to climate change.

"People in the Bellingham area are generally breathing healthy air, but increasing climate change is threatening our air quality," said Allison Hickey, Executive Vice President for the American Lung Association Western Region. "Wildfire smoke threatens our air quality. Many areas in our state are experiencing worsening air quality. Right now, more than four in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we're heading in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting public health and people's lives."

Air quality has worsened in many places across the state of Washington. Yakima and Seattle-Tacoma rank as the sixth and ninth most-polluted areas in Washington respectively for short-term particle pollution, worse than last year. The Spokane Valley-Coeur d'Alene area was the 15th most-polluted areas in the U.S. for short-term particle pollution and suffered its worst-ever particle pollution in the 20-year history of the report.

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.

"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 Hickey. "Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines."

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 Bellingham's rankings, as well as air quality across Washington 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 Holly Harvey at [email protected] or 206-512-3292.

Cleanest Cities for Ozone Pollution (zero unhealthy air days - all counties)

  • Anchorage, AK
  • Bellingham, WA
  • Casper, WY
  • Fairbanks, AK
  • Idaho Falls-Rexburg-Blackfoot, ID
  • Honolulu, HI

Cleanest Cities for Year-Round Particle Pollution (twenty-five cities with the lowest annual levels)

1. Cheyenne, WY (tie)
1. Honolulu, HI (tie)
1. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI (tie)
4. Casper, WY (tie)
4. St. George, UT (tie)
6. Elmira-Corning, NY
7. Duluth, MN-WI (tie)
7. Pueblo-Canon City, CO (tie)
9. Bismarck, ND (tie)
10.  Bellingham, WA (tie)
10. Syracuse-Auburn, NY (tie)

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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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