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New Report: Kansas City Air Pollution Gets Worse

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

(April 24, 2019) - KANSAS CITY

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 Kansas City received a “D” grade for ozone pollution, which is slightly worse than last year’s report. The 20th annual report found that Kansas City had an average of three unhealthy ozone days between 2015-2017, which is slightly higher than the 2.7 unhealthy days from last year’s report. 

“Kansas City residents should be aware of unhealthy air quality days, largely caused by climate change, which results in hotter days, that could be placing our health and lives at risk,” said Sara Prem, advocacy specialist for the Lung Association. “In addition to challenges here in Kansas City, 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 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. 

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 Greater Kansas City

  • Grade: D
  • Rank: 62nd most polluted
  • 3 unhealthy ozone days

Compared to the 2018 report, Kansas City experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. However, this year is significantly better than the 2005 “State of the Air report,” where the area had 39.5 unhealthy ozone days. This shows that, while there is still work to be done, the air pollution is improving dramatically.

“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Prem. “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 Greater Kansas City

  • Short-Term Particle Pollution
    • Grade: C
    • Rank: 58th most polluted
  • Year-Round Particle Pollution
    • Grade: Pass
    • Rank: 56th most polluted

The 2019 report also found Kansas City had lower levels of both year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution as compared to the 2018 report. 

“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 Prem. “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 Kansas City’s rankings, as well as air quality across Kansas, Missouri 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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