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New Report: St. Louis Sees Fewest Unhealthy Air Pollution Days Ever; Still Gets “F” Grade for Ozone

American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” reports improved air quality

(April 24, 2019) - ST. LOUIS, Missouri

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 St. Louis had the fewest unhealthy ozone pollution days ever, however, the city is still ranked the 29th most polluted city in the nation and received an “F” grade for ozone pollution. 

“St. Louis residents should be aware that even with an improved ranking, we’re breathing unhealthy air, largely caused by hotter days and vehicle emissions,” said Susannah Fuchs, director of health promotions, clean air, for the Lung Association. “In addition to challenges here in St. Louis, 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 St. Louis

  • Grade: F
  • Rank: 29th most polluted
  • 3.7 unhealthy ozone days

Compared to the 2018 report, St. Louis experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. The metropolitan area is ranked 29nd most polluted for ozone, which is the same ranking than the previous report.

“Because of my asthma, I have to be extra careful when exerting myself outdoors, especially in the summer when the heat is high. Since I already have issues with exercise induced asthma, I am extra careful to avoid running or biking outside when the air quality is poor,” said St. Louis resident Laura Turner. “When I have an asthma attack it often knocks me out for a couple of days and can set me back with whatever workout program I’m trying to stick to.”

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 St. Louis
    • Short-Term Particle Pollution
    • Grade: C
    • Rank: 41st most polluted
  • Year-Round Particle Pollution
    • Grade: Pass
    • Rank: 26th most polluted

The 2019 report also found St. Louis 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 Fuchs. “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 St. Louis’ rankings, as well as air quality across 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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