Birmingham’s Air Quality Worsens, Receives Failing Grade for Ozone Pollution

Lung Association report reveals more unhealthy air pollution days for Birmingham metro area

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that Birmingham’s ozone pollution has gotten worse. The area is ranked 35th most polluted for ozone, which is significantly worse than last year, when it was ranked 51st worst for ozone pollution. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

The Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of particle pollution (also known as soot) and ozone (smog) over a three-year period – this year’s report covers 2017-2019.

“The levels of ozone seen in Birmingham can harm the health of all of our residents, but place our children, older adults and people living with lung disease particularly at risk,” said Ashley Lyerly, the director of advocacy for the Lung Association. “Fortunately, the area was ranked for the 6th consecutive year as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution, which means that there were no unhealthy days for this common pollutant.”

Ozone Pollution in Birmingham
Compared to the 2020 report, Birmingham experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” found that Birmingham had 1 red and 16 orange air quality days during the years 2017-2019 and gave the city an “F” grade for ozone pollution. Learn more about the Air Quality Index here. 

Particle Pollution in Birmingham
The “State of the Air” report found that year-round particle pollution levels in Birmingham were lower than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 26th most polluted for year-round particle pollution (improved from 14th worst last year). The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Birmingham was ranked as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution, which means that there were no unhealthy air quality days for particle pollution.

The “State of the Air” report found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. In Birmingham, ozone pollution placed its residents at risk, including those who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as older adults, children and people with a lung disease. The report also shows that nationally, people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. The report also finds that climate change made air quality worse and harder to clean up.

The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: average annual levels and short-term spikes. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular damage and are linked to developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.

Learn more about “State of the Air” at Lung.org/sota and sign the petition for the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice. Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact Jill Dale at [email protected] or at 312-940-7001. 

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
312-940-7001
[email protected]

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