Chicago Air Quality Worsens, Now Ranked 22nd Most Polluted City
(April 18, 2018) -
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Chicago’s ozone pollution (smog) has worsened and the city is now ranked the 22nd most polluted city in the nation, according to the 2018 “State of the Air” report released by the American Lung Association in Greater Chicago today. This is a significant increase, as the city was ranked the 26th most polluted city in last year’s report.
“The 2018 ‘State of the Air’ report finds that unhealthful levels of ozone in Chicago 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 like COPD,” said Angela Tin, vice president of clean air for the American Lung Association, Upper Midwest Region. “Across the nation, the report found 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.”
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 in Chicago
Compared to the 2017 report, Chicago experienced significantly more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report.
“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Tin. “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 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 Chicago
Unfortunately, due to a lack in monitoring and incomplete data, there is currently not enough information to evaluate short-term and year round particle pollution in Chicago.
“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 Tin. “As the 22nd most polluted city for ozone, it is imperative that we get particle pollution data for Chicago as soon as possible to help understand the health impacts.”
The trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2014-2016, reflect the ongoing challenges to reduce each pollutant in the changing political and outdoor climate.
“We can and should do more to save lives,” Tin said. “The Lung Association 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 like the Clean Power Plan and cleaner cars, both steps that help us fight climate change and reduce air pollution.”
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 Chicago rankings, as well as air quality across Illinois and the nation, in the 2018 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and healthy air, and threats to air quality, contact Jill Thompson at 312-940-7001 or at [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 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.