‘State of the Air’ 2017 Report Finds Oklahoma City Air Quality Improved
(April 19, 2017) -
The American Lung Association’s 2017 “State of the Air” report found that Oklahoma County’s air quality levels have improved in the three most common forms of hazardous air pollution.
Oklahoma City was again ranked as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution, with no unhealthy air days. The area’s long-term particle pollution also improved with its lowest level, tying for the 102nd spot. Oklahoma County did receive an F for ozone pollution, but this year’s report marked its fewest unhealthy air days ever. Oklahoma City bettered its ranking on the most-polluted cities for ozone by 17 spots, coming in at 41.
“This was Oklahoma City’s best report ever, reaching their lowest levels of year-round particle pollution, having their fewest ozone days and remaining on the list of the clean cities for short-term particle pollution,” said Terri Bailey, executive director of the American Lung Association in Oklahoma. “Still, 40 percent of Americans still live with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution, placing their health at risk. Exposure to high levels of pollution can lead to health effects such as asthma attacks, worsened chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms and cardiovascular harm. While we’ve seen great improvements in the Oklahoma City area, we must continue to build on our efforts to clean up air to protect our most vulnerable populations.”
Like Oklahoma City, Tulsa had one of its best ‘State of the Air” reports ever and was ranked as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution. The city came in at 49th for most polluted for ozone and 100th for most pollute for year-round particles.
The most notable national findings of the 18th annual report were lower overall ozone levels and lower year-round particle levels, offset by a continued trend of extreme short-term spikes in particle pollution, often related to wildfires or droughts. The report finds that the health of 43 million people across the country are at risk from these dangerous spikes in particle pollution.
Each year the “State of the Air” reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution (smog) and particle pollution (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 be lethal. But the trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2013-2015, are strikingly different for these pollutants, nationwide and in Oklahoma City.
Ozone Pollution in Oklahoma City
In the 2017 report, although Oklahoma County received a failing grade for high levels of ozone pollution, the area recorded its lowest number of unhealthy days ever. Last year, Oklahoma City was ranked 24 on the list of most-polluted cities for ozone in the nation, but the few number of unhealthy days in 2013-2015 earned the city its best ranking ever at 41.
“Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” Bailey said. “When they 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, thanks to the Clean Air Act’s success at cleaning up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles. However, research shows that climate change causes warmer temperatures, which makes ozone harder to clean up.
Particle Pollution in Oklahoma City
“State of the Air” 2017 found year-round particle pollution (soot) levels in Oklahoma County during 2013-2015 were at its lowest ever. Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution.
Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel engines, 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. They can even cause lung cancer, and early death.
“Across the country, year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines,” Bailey said.
Short-term spikes in particle pollution can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. According to the 2017 report, Oklahoma City remains one of the cleanest cities in the country for short-term particle pollution with zero unhealthy days in 2013-2015.
Climate is known to cause increased heat, changes in weather patterns, drought and wildfires, which contributed to the extraordinarily high numbers of days with unhealthy particle pollution in some cities, including Oklahoma City.
“Healthy air protections are under attack, and must be defended to save lives here and across the country. Air travels from one state to another, so only federal protections can help protect the air we all breathe,” Bailey said. “The Lung Association in Oklahoma calls on President Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and members of Congress to fully fund, implement and enforce the Clean Air Act for all air pollutants – including those that drive climate change and make it harder to ensure healthy air for all Americans.”
Learn more about Oklahoma City rankings, as well as air quality across Oklahoma and the nation in the 2017 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and healthy air, contact the American Lung Association in Oklahoma at [email protected] or 312-801-7631.
About the American Lung Association in Oklahoma
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 Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit the newly redesigned website: Lung.org.
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