Several Missouri Counties See Particle Pollution rankings improve; Report Reveals Nationwide Disparities for People of Color

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in St. Louis and across the nation
The American Lung Association found that several Missouri counties received passing grades for annual particle pollution, according to the 2023 “State of the Air” report, released today. Nationally, the report found that nearly 120 million people, or more than one in three, in the U.S. live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

The Lung Association’s 24th annual “State of the Air” report grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution, annual particle pollution and short-term spikes in particle pollution over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2019-2021.

“As we can see from this year’s report data, while several Missouri cities and counties saw positive improvements in their air quality, there is still much work to be done in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas to improve our air quality,” said Laura Turner, Senior Manager, Advocacy – Missouri, for the Lung Association. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for our residents at highest risk, such as children, older adults, individuals who are pregnant, and those living with chronic disease. That’s why we are calling on lawmakers at the local, state, and federal levels to take action to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe.”

Nationally, the report found that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act. However, more work remains to fully clean up harmful pollution, and short-term particle pollution continues to get worse. In addition, some communities bear a greater burden of air pollution. Out of the nearly 120 million people who live in areas with unhealthy air quality, a disproportionate number – more than 64 million (54%) – are people of color. In fact, people of color were 64% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one measure, and 3.7 times as likely to live in a county with failing grades for all three measures.

Ground-level Ozone Pollution
Compared to the 2022 report, St. Louis experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked St. Louis as the 35th most polluted city for ozone pollution, which is better compared to its ranking of 37th in last year’s report. Madison County received an “F” grade for ozone pollution.

Quincy-Hannibal, IL-MO, and Springfield, MO metro areas remained on the list of Cleanest Cities for Ozone Air Pollution. Columbia-Moberly-Mexico, Jefferson City, joined this list for this year’s report. All of these metro areas had zero unhealthy ozone days.

Clay County, MO, the most polluted county in the Kansas City metro area, saw a decrease in ozone
days to its best ever with 1.7 days reported in 2019-2021 from 4.0 days in the prior report.

Particle Pollution
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly.

St. Louis’ short-term particle pollution got worse in this year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy days. The area is ranked 48th worst for short-term particle pollution. The county of St. Louis City received a “D” grade for short-term particle pollution.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in St. Louis were slightly better than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 27th most polluted for year-round particle pollution, (better than the ranking of 24th last year).  St. Louis improved enough to get off the list of 25 most polluted cities for year-round particle pollution.

Burlington-Fort Madison-Keokuk, IA-IL-MO remained on the list of Cleanest Cities for Short-term Particle Pollution, with zero unhealthy air days. The metro area is the only Missouri metro with zero unhealthy air days for short-term particle pollution.

The American Lung Association is calling on President Biden to urgently move forward on several measures to clean up air pollution nationwide, including new pollution limits on ozone and particle pollution and new measures to clean up power plants and vehicles. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA.

Media Resources
For more information, contact:

Janye Killelea
312-940-7624
[email protected]

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