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Southeastern Wisconsin’s Air Quality Worsens for Ozone Finds 2019 ‘State of the Air’ Report -- Climate Change Impacts Our Air

American Lung Association’s 20th annual air quality report finds more than 4 in 10 Americans live with unhealthy air quality.

Editor’s Note: Trend charts and rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are available at

(April 24, 2019) - BROOKFIELD, Wisc.

For more information please contact:

James Martinez
[email protected]
(312) 445-2501

The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report found Southeastern Wisconsin has earned mixed results for the nation’s most widespread air pollutants. The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone and particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. The 20th annual report found the region experienced more high ozone days than in the previous year’s report, slightly more particle pollution as measured on a daily basis, but an overall reduction in annual particle pollution.

“Residents should be aware that we’re still breathing unhealthy air.  Potential sources include emissions from power plants and vehicles and, hotter weather as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk,” said Dona Wininsky of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin.

“Another factor for part of Wisconsin is the ‘Chicago effect,’ – pollution that drifts north from south of the border, negatively impacting Wisconsin’s lakefront communities,” Wininsky said, “In these counties it is critically important that people be aware of that pollution, so they can protect themselves.  Ozone is unhealthy, regardless of the source.”

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.

Grades and number/severity of violations for the six counties in the region are:



24 Hour Particle Pollution

Annual Particle Pollution


F; 29 orange, 2 red

B; 1 red



F; 14 orange, 1 red

A; 0 violations



F; 21 orange, 1 red

A; 0 violations



F; 20 orange, 1 red




F; 33 orange, 3 red




B; 1 orange

A; 0 violations


*Did Not Collect

Each year the “State of the Air” provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone and particle pollution. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes. 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.

Key Highlights of the Report Include:

  • Milwaukee improved its year-round particle pollution levels to its lowest ever.
  • Three counties – Ozaukee, Sheboygan and Kenosha saw ozone levels increase in this report while Milwaukee and Waukesha’s levels remained the same or went down.  Last year’s report did not include data from Racine County.

Ozone Pollution
Compared to the 2018 report, Southeastern Wisconsin recorded more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report.

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
The 2019 report also found year-round particle pollution levels slightly lower than the 2018 report, but that an increase in 24-hour particle pollution levels indicates higher spikes of limited duration.  Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution.

Many of these spikes in can be directly linked to weather patterns like drought or to events like wildfires, which are increasing in frequency and intensity in many areas due to climate change and high emissions from wood-burning devices.

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 the region’s county rankings, as well as air quality across Wisconsin and the nation, in the 2019 “State of the Air” report at For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, and threats to air quality, contact Dona Wininsky at [email protected] or 262-703-4840.


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:

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