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Chattanooga Air Quality Improved, Finds 2016 'State of the Air' Report

(April 20, 2016) - Chattanooga, TN

Despite continued improvement in air quality, local residents remain at risk from health effects of unhealthy air, according to new report from the American Lung Association.

Editor's note: Trend charts and rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are available at

The American Lung Association's 2016 "State of the Air" report found Chattanooga ranked as the 44th most polluted city for year round particle levels . Compared to the 2015 report, Chattanooga has seen a decrease in its year round levels for particle pollution in 2012-2014 and not only has reduced levels and is the best ever ranking, but also meets the standard.

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, and also in Chattanooga.

Ozone in Chattanooga

Compared to the 2015 report (2011-2013), Chattanooga experienced fewer unhealthy days of ozone in this year's report. In fact, Chattanooga metro area reported its fewest unhealthy ozone days ever, and ranked tied 116th most polluted in the nation. Using the new standard, Hamilton County had 3.7 days on average (an F), the fewest days ever. This is a great improvement over its worst report of 63.3 days in 1998-2000, recounted under the 2015 standard.

"Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases," said Heather Wehrheim, Advocacy Director of The American Lung Association in Tennessee. "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 in Chattanooga

The 2016 report also found year-round particle pollution (soot) levels in 2012-2014 lower than the 2015 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 Wehrheim. "Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines."

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, Chattanooga had fewer days when short-term particle pollution has reached unhealthy levels in 2012-2014. In fact it reported no unhealthy days and is ranked one of the cleanest cities for short-term unhealthy particle days. This is in spite of a trend seen across the nation of short-term spikes in particle pollution.

"If we can do more to save lives- we should, and we can," Heather Wehrheim said. "The Lung Association in Tennessee calls on Tennessee to adopt a strong Clean Power Plan to reduce harmful emissions from power plants that worsen climate change and immediately harm health"

Learn more about Chattanooga metro area rankings, as well as air quality across Tennessee and the nation in the 2016 "State of the Air" report at

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and healthy air, contact the American Lung Association in Tennesee at [email protected] or 502/759-2889.

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