For Fourth Year, Scranton--Wilkes-Barre Metro Area among Nation’s Cleanest for Daily Particle Pollution, Finds 2019 ‘State of the Air’ Report, But Unchanged for Ozone Smog; Lackawanna County Earning D Grade.
American Lung Association’s 20th annual air quality report finds more than 4 in 10 Americans live with unhealthy air quality. Metro area once again graded for year-round particle pollution; nearly same result as four years ago, easily meets standard.
(April 24, 2019) - SCRANTON, PA
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The American Lung Association's 2019 "State of the Air" report found that the 3-county Scranton--Wilkes-Barre metro area showed excellent results for two measures of fine particle pollution, almost matching its best ever performance for the year-round measure and continuing to meet the national long-term air quality standard. In addition, the Wyoming Valley ranked among the nation's cleanest cities for the fourth consecutive year for the daily measure by having zero days when particle pollution levels exceeded the standard.
But the report also found that the metro area had the same highest average number of days (2.3 days in Lackawanna County) with unhealthy levels of ozone smog, for which its worst grade continued to be an "D". Luzerne County posted 0.7 such days for the fourth year running, receiving a "B". Lackawanna County was the only county in the area with results for particle pollution.
The 20th annual air quality "report card" tracks Americans' exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone and particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. 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.
"Area residents should be aware that we're breathing unhealthy air, driven by local emissions, upwind sources, and extreme heat as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk," said Kevin Stewart, the American Lung Association's Director of Environmental Health for Advocacy and Public Policy. "In addition to challenges here in the Wyoming Valley and beyond, 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."
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, often 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 Scranton--Wilkes-Barre
The metro area experienced the same worst number of unhealthy days of high ozone as in last year's report. Despite this, the area's rank improved slightly from 72nd to 75th worst in the country for this measure.
"Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases," said Stewart. "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 in Scranton--Wilkes-Barre
After a three period with incomplete data for the metro area, the 2019 report also found year-round particle pollution levels to be nearly the best ever. The best result was found in the 2015 report and had marked the ending point of eight consecutive years of improvement. This year's value, though slightly higher than in the 2015 report, easily met the air quality standard. Nationwide, the best progress in this year's report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution. The area ranked 50th worst in the country for this measure.
"Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, industrial sources, 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 Stewart. "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 the metro area received an "A" grade for posting zero unhealthy days for the fourth consecutive year, making it one of the nation's cleanest cities for this pollutant.
While improvements have been made locally, many of these spikes in the western United States were directly linked to weather patterns leading to drought or to wildfire events, which are increasing in frequency and intensity in many areas of the country due to climate change.
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 rankings for the Scranton--Wilkes-Barre metro area, as well as air quality across Pennsylvania and the nation, in the 2019 "State of the Air" report at www.Lung.org/SOTA. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, and threats to air quality, contact Annette Eyer at [email protected] or 717- 971-1124.
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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