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New Report: Indianapolis Ozone Pollution Gets Worse

American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” reports more unhealthy air quality days

(April 24, 2019) - INDIANAPOLIS

For more information please contact:

Jill Thompson
[email protected]
312-940-7001

The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report revealed that Indianapolis received an “F” grade for ozone pollution. The 20th annual report found that Indianapolis is the 55th most polluted metropolitan area for ozone pollution, the 19th most polluted for year-round particle pollution and the 33rd most polluted for short-term particle pollution. 

“Indianapolis residents should be aware that we’re breathing unhealthy air, largely caused by hotter days and vehicle emissions, placing our health and lives at risk,” said Nick Torres, director of advocacy for the Lung Association. “In addition to challenges here in Indianapolis, the 20th-anniversary ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that 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.”

The annual “State of the Air” report tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or 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. 

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 Indianapolis

  • Grade: F
  • Rank: 55th Most Polluted
  • 3.7 unhealthy ozone days

Compared to the 2018 report, Indianapolis experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. 

“For many children and adults, including myself, poor air quality and air pollution is the ‘tipping point’ that means the difference for many people between breathing well and staying in the ‘green zone’ on their asthma action plans and difficulty breathing and moving to the ‘red zone’ with the need for ‘rescue’ medications and in some cases hospitalization,” said Deb Robarge, BSN RN NCSN, executive director for the Indiana Association of School Nurses. “I could definitely tell the difference on ozone action days in our city in the number of students that came for treatment for their breathing diagnoses.”

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 Indianapolis

  • Short-Term Particle Pollution
    • Grade: D
    • Rank: 33rd most polluted
    • 2.5 unhealthy air quality days
  • Year-Round Particle Pollution
    • Grade: Pass
    • Rank: 19th most polluted

The 2019 report also found Indianapolis had the lowest levels ever of both year-round particle pollution and short-term 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 Torres. “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 Indianapolis’s rankings, as well as air quality across Indiana and the nation, in the 2019 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota. 

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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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