Maine’s Air Quality Worsened for Ozone, but Bangor Remains on the Cleanest Cities List, Finds 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, Bangor is 1 of only 6 “Cleanest Cities” Nationwide, ranking on lists for ozone, short term and long term particle pollution
Editor’s Note: Full Report, trend charts, rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are now available at Lung.org/sota
(April 24, 2019) - AUGUSTA, Maine
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The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report found that 4 counties in Maine experienced more bad ozone days compared to the 2018 report, causing reduced grades. However, counties reporting year round particle pollution, showed marked improvement, and Bangor was ranked as a cleanest city on all three lists for the nation’s most widespread air pollutants. The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly.
“Maine residents should be aware that in some areas 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 Lance Boucher, Senior Division Director of State Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Maine. “We are proud to see Bangor among the nation’s best cities for air quality, but the 20th-anniversary ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that more than 4 in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we’ve got to be diligent about protecting the health of Mainers and the air we breathe.”
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.
Compared to the 2018 report, the counties of Cumberland, Hancock, Knox and Washington experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report, resulting in reduced grades.
“Even one bad ozone day can be harmful to a person who is healthy and active – but Maine has over 18,000 kids with pediatric asthma, over 108,000 adults with asthma, and over 74,000 adults with COPD. One bad ozone day puts these populations at risk, often driving them to the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room,” said Boucher.
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.
“Today’s report offers a stark reminder of how much Maine’s air is impacted by cross-state pollution,” said Dr. Marguerite Pennoyer, a Scarborough physician specializing in allergy and immunology. “It would be short-sighted for Maine to opt out from the collaborative multi-state Ozone Transport Region, yet that’s exactly what the previous administration proposed. We cannot relax provisions under the Clean Air Act that have been working for decades to clean up Maine’s air. While progress has been made, we are not in a position to declare victory, especially as the Trump Administration and industry allies in Congress are trying roll back federal protections. The American Lung Association strongly urges Governor Mills to withdraw this short-sighted proposal that would modify Maine’s much-needed ozone control strategies.”
The 2019 report also found year-round particle pollution levels slightly lower than the 2018 report, with the exception of Androscoggin. 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 Boucher. “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 county of Aroostook reported fewer days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels, and improved its grade from a C to a B.
“An additional silver lining in this year’s report is the inclusion of more data from the reporting counties. Last year we had incomplete or unavailable information from Kennebec, Cumberland, Hancock, and Oxford on at least one pollutant. Tracking and recording this information allows us to inform Maine residents about the air they breath, as well as make prescriptive policy recommendations on how to improve it,” Boucher concluded.
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 Maine’s grades, as well as air quality across the state 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 Jennifer Solomon at [email protected] or 516-680-8927.
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.