Yakima’s Air Quality Worst Ever Recorded According to 2019 ‘State of the Air’ Report
Wildfires impact Yakima’s air pollution
(April 24, 2019) - YAKIMA
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The American Lung Association "State of the Air" 2019 report found that Yakima's air quality has significantly worsened and it's now the 6th most polluted area in the U.S. for short-term particle pollution.
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. Many of these spikes in Yakima 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.
"Residents in the Yakima Valley should know we're breathing unhealthy air, especially during wildfire season. Smoke from wildfires puts our health and safety at risk," said Allison Hickey, National 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."
The Seattle-Tacoma and Spokane Valley-Coeur d'Alene areas rank as the ninth and fifteenth 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.
Yakima County nearly tripled its weighted average for particle pollution days to 14.8 days on average in 2015-2017, up from 5 days in 2014-2016. This jump is a departure from reductions over the previous three reports, from the prior worst average being 6.8 in 2011-2013. The fewest recorded days were reached in 2001-2003 with a low of 2.7 days, according to the report. Yakima County also received an "F" grade for high particle pollution days.
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. "Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines."
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 Yakima'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.
Ten most polluted cities for Short-term Particle Pollution
1. Bakersfield, CA
2. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA
3. Fairbanks, AK
4. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
5. Missoula, MT
6. Yakima, WA
7. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
8. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT
9. Seattle-Tacoma, WA
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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