New Report: Wisconsin’s Air Quality Improved, But Continue to Fail in Certain Cities

This year’s “State of the Air 2021” report from the American Lung Association found that most of Wisconsin experienced better air quality with fewer unhealthy ozone days, and improvements in particle pollution, when compared to the previous year report.  See the full report at Lung.org/sota.  

The Cleanest cities for ozone include:  Wausau-Stevens Point-Wisconsin Rapids areas.  The Cleanest cities for particle pollution include:  Eau Claire-Menomonie; Green Bay-Shawano; La Crosee-Onalaska WI-MN; and Duluth MN-WI areas.  These benefits are due to the continued progress made by the Clean Air Act.  

However, certain cities, like Sheboygan and Milwaukee remain in the Top 25 most polluted cities nationally for ozone.  “Sheboygan and Milwaukee area residents should be aware that we’re still breathing unhealthy air, mostly driven by vehicle emissions and extreme heat as a result of climate change which places our health and lives at risk,” said Angela Tin, National Senior Director for Clean Air Initiatives for the American Lung Association. “In addition to challenges in these two cities, the 22nd ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that nearly half of Americans live in counties that had unhealthy ozone or particle pollution in 2017-2019.”

Ozone Pollution in Sheboygan 
•    Grade: F
•    Rank: top 23rd most polluted nationally (previously22nd)
•    9.0 unhealthy ozone days

Compared to the 2020 report, Sheboygan actually experienced less unhealthy days of high ozone (down from 12.0 days). The previous three years showed a yearly increase in the number of unhealthy ozone days.  The best period came in 2008-2010, when the area only experienced 8.0 days of unhealthy ozone.  Ozone blown across Lake Michigan from Chicago affects the air quality in Sheboygan.  All averages are based on the stronger ozone standard adopted in 2015.

Ozone Pollution in Milwaukee 
•    Grade: F
•    Rank: top 24th most polluted nationally (previously also 24th)
•    4.2 unhealthy ozone days

Compared to the 2020 report, Milwaukee experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone (down from 6.0 days). All averages are based on the stronger ozone standard adopted in 2015.

Particle Pollution

Slightly higher annual averages in many counties, but most counties still meet the national standard.  Slight improvement in short term particles comparted with the last report.  

Although this report does not cover monitoring data from 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of air pollution on lung health is of heightened concern. Learn more about that at Lung.org/covid-19.

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 American 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 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 also 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. 

For more information, contact:

James A. Martinez
(312) 445-2501
[email protected]

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