Wildfire Smoke Triggers Worst Air Quality Recorded in Spokane According the 2019 ‘State of the Air’ Report
Wildfires impact worsening air quality in Spokane
(April 24, 2019) - SPOKANE
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The American Lung Association "State of the Air" 2019 report found that the Spokane Valley and Coeur d'Alene area is the 15th most-polluted area in the U.S. for short-term particle pollution and suffered its worst-ever particle pollution in the 20-year history of the report.
The annual air quality "report card" tracks Americans' exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Spokane County received an "F" grade for the number of days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels.
Many of these spikes in Spokane were directly linked to events like wildfires, which are increasing in frequency and intensity in many areas due to climate change. This problem is likely to continue as temperatures rise; our changing climate is likely to stoke more wildfires in the future. The consequence for our public health and safety is sobering.
"People living in the Spokane area should know that we're breathing unhealthy air, driven by wildfires as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk," said Allison Hickey, Executive Vice President for the American Lung Association Western Region. "In addition to challenges here, many other areas in Washington including Seattle have seen worsening air quality. Right now, 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 and people's lives."
Yakima and Seattle-Tacoma rank as the sixth and ninth most-polluted areas in the nation respectively for short-term particle pollution, worse than last year. Bellingham ranked as one of the cleanest cities in the nation for both ozone and year-round particle pollution.
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.
"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 Hickey.
Learn more about Spokane's rankings, as well as air quality across Washington and the nation, in the 2019 "State of the Air" report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, and threats to air quality, contact Holly Harvey at [email protected] or 206-512-3292.
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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