Ohio's Air Quality Improving, Still a Long Way to Go Finds 2016 'State of the Air' Report
(April 21, 2016) - Columbus, OH
The American Lung Association has released its annual "State of the Air Report" for 2016. The report found continued improvement on the national level in air quality in 2012–2014, showing lower levels of year-round particle pollution and ozone. Still, more than half of all Americans-166 million people-live in counties where they are exposed to unhealthful levels of these pollutants.
The "State of the Air 2016" report shows that cleaning up pollution continues successfully in much of the nation. In the 25 cities with the worst pollution, the majority saw improvements from last year. Many saw their lowest levels ever of year-round particle pollution or ozone pollution.
In addition, more than one in two people had unhealthy air quality in their communities. Yet, even as most cities experienced strong improvement, too many cities suffered worse episodes of unhealthy air. While most of the nation has much cleaner air quality than even a decade ago, a few cities reported their worst number of unhealthy days since the report began, including some that experienced extreme weather events. The "State of the Air 2016" report provides evidence that a changing climate will make it harder to protect human health.
Ohio saw marked improvements in many areas for particle pollution or soot. Seventeen Ohio counties were among the cleanest counties in the nation for short-term particle pollution, meaning they reported no days with unhealthy levels of particle pollution (Allen, Athens, Butler, Clark, Franklin, Greene, Lake, Lawrence, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Preble, Scioto, Summit, and Trumbull). However, Cleveland, Akron, Canton, and Cincinnati all still ranked in the worst 20 areas in the nation for long-term particle pollution, even though Cleveland and Cincinnati both saw their best ever levels for particle pollution in this report.
Again this year, no Ohio counties made the list for the cleanest counties in the nation for ozone pollution, with 31 counties receiving a grade of F in the report. Likewise no cities in Ohio were ranked as the cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution.
"In spite of improvements in year-round particle pollution, the 2016 'State of the Air' report finds unhealthful levels of ozone in too many Ohio counties, putting our local citizens at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular harm, said Shelly Kiser, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio. "Across the nation, the report found continued improvement in air quality, but more than half of the people in the United States live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution."
Each year the "State of the Air" reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution. 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 be lethal. But the trends reported in this year's report, which covers data collected in 2012-2014, are strikingly different for these pollutants nationwide.
"Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases," said Kiser. "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."
Nationwide, ozone pollution has decreased because the nation has cleaned up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles. However, according to research, climate change causes warmer temperatures, which makes ozone harder to clean up.
"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 Kiser. "Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines."
Increased heat, changes in weather patterns, drought and wildfires are all related to climate change, which has contributed to the extraordinarily high numbers of days with unhealthy particle pollution in some cities.
"If we can do more to save lives-we should, and we can," Kiser said. "The Lung Association calls on Ohio's leaders to develop a strong strategy for implementing the Clean Power Plan and reinstating our state's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards to reduce harmful emissions from power plants that worsen climate change and immediately harm health."
Key Ohio Findings:
The 2016 report found zero days with unhealthy levels of year-round particle pollution (soot) levels in the area in 2012-2014, ranking it as one of the nation's cleanest cities. The metro area had its best levels ever for year-round particle pollution in 2012-2014, slightly improving its levels from 2011-2013. Franklin County, the most polluted county in the metro area, improved its level of year-round particle pollution to its best annual level yet. This year's levels continue the steady decrease in annual particle pollution levels from a high in 2000-2002.
The metro area continued to reduce ozone pollution in 2012-2014, and ranked tied for 37th most polluted city for ozone in the nation. Franklin County reduced its weighted average to 12.3 days (an F) of unhealthy levels of ozone from 16.9 in 2011-2013. This is the area's best level ever. Even though the levels are much too high, they are a vast improvement from the worst period, with 49.3 days in 1997-1999.
Included in this metro area are Delaware, Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Guernsey, Hocking, Knox, Licking, Logan, Madison, Marion, Morrow, Muskingum, Perry, Pickaway, Ross and Union Counties.
Cleveland along with 15 other cities reached their lowest levels of year-round particle pollution ever. However, the metro area still fails to meet the annual national air quality standard. This year's levels continued a gradual downward trend from their worst level of annual particular pollution recorded in 2000-2002.
The 2016 report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. According to the 2016 report, the Cleveland metropolitan area has had a slight improvement in the number of days with unhealthy particle pollution and ranked tied for 34th for most polluted for short-term levels of particle pollution. Cuyahoga County maintained its D grade but improved its average of polluted days. Their worst ranking occurred in 2000-2002.
Compared to the 2015 report (2011-2013), the Cleveland metropolitan area experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year's report, but remained ranked as 27th most polluted for ozone. This earned them a grade of F again this year.
Stark County received an F again this year for ozone pollution, while receiving a B for short-term particle pollution. Summit County, however, saw a significant improvement in ozone pollution, with its grade increasing from a D in the 2015 report to a B this year. With this improvement, Summit County earned the best report card in the state for 2016 for both particle pollution and ozone.
The 2016 report found year-round particle pollution (soot) levels in 2012-2014 lower than last year, and Cincinnati is tied for the 14th most polluted city. The metro area now meets the annual national air quality standard. The metro area had a weighted average of 0.3 days with unhealthy spikes in particle pollution, an increase from its best ever of zero unhealthy days in 2011-2013.
Hamilton County returned to being the most polluted county in the metro area, but improved the metro's level to its lowest ever, and now meets the national standard. Last year's report had Butler County with the highest level, but this year's level resumes the gradual decline from 2003-2005.
The metro area continued to reduce ozone pollution in 2012-2014, as seen in the 2015 report. Moreover, ozone levels are still much better than the worst period in 1997-1999, when the area had 54.3 days of unhealthy ozone levels.
Hamilton County had the highest weighted average in the metro area for ozone levels. The county had 13.8 days (an F) with unhealthful levels of ozone, better than the 22 days in 2011-2013.
The 2016 report found the metro area improved its year-round levels to its best levels ever but dropped from the list of cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution. It is ranked tied for 33rd most polluted area in year-round particle pollution and meets the national standard. It is ranked tied for 63rd for most polluted area in short-term particle pollution.
Montgomery County became the most polluted county in the metro area with a weighted average of 0.3 unhealthy days (B grade), increasing from its best level of zero unhealthy days in 2011-2013.
The metro area continued to reduce its ozone pollution in 2012-2014 to its best ever, although the ranking rose to tie for 49th most polluted city for ozone in the nation, as other areas saw more significant improvements.
Clark County had a weighted average of 9.8 days (An F) with unhealthy levels of ozone, lower than the 14.5 days in 2011-2013. This continues a drop in ozone levels seen since 2010-2012. Ozone levels had gradually decreased from a high of 47.7 days in 1997-1999.
Included in this metro area are Champaign, Clark, Darke, Green, Miami, Montgomery, and Shelby Counties.
Learn more about the rankings, as well as air quality across Ohio and the nation in the 2016 "State of the Air" report at stateoftheair.org. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and healthy air, contact the American Lung Association in Ohio at [email protected] or (740) 739-0187.