New Report: Severe Wildfires Continue to Impact Alaska’s Air Quality Exposing Residents to Unhealthy Levels of Air Pollution

American Lung Association “State of the Air” Report reveals that Fairbank residents faced more days of poor air quality.

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that Alaska’s rankings were mixed for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. 

The “State of the Air” report is the Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” that tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog), annual particle pollution (also known as soot), and short-term spikes in particle pollution, over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2018-2020. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“The levels of particle pollution in Alaska can harm the health of all of our residents, but particularly at risk are children, older adults, pregnant people and those living with chronic disease. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer,” said Carrie Nyssen, Senior Director of Advocacy for the Lung Association. 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Alaska
Ozone is not an air pollution for Alaska. Fairbanks is one of four cities ranked as the cleanest for ozone. Anchorage has been on this list in previous reports but had incomplete data for this year’s report.


Particle Pollution in Alaska
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Fairbanks recorded the highest ever number of unhealthy days in this report and received a failing grade. Anchorage also received an F grade but did have fewer unhealthy days than the previous report. 

Fairbanks ranked 7th on the list of most polluted by annual particles. Major wildfires impacts in 2019 drove particles higher for both the annual and unhealthy particle days. Anchorage appeared on the top 25 cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution, taking the #22 spot.

The report found that nationwide, nearly 9 million more people were impacted by deadly particle pollution than reported last year. It also shows more days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality than ever before in the two-decade history of this report. Overall, more than 137 million Americans live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. Communities of color are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air. The report found that people of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant, and 3.6 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three pollutants.

The addition of 2020 data to the 2022 “State of the Air” report gives a first look at air quality trends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the shutdowns in early 2020, there was no obvious improvement. 

The American Lung Association is calling on the Biden administration to strengthen the national limits on both short-term and year-round particulate matter air pollution. Stronger standards will educate the public about air pollution levels that threaten their health and drive the cleanup of polluting sources in communities across the country. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA.

For more information, contact:

Alaska Media Contact
(310) 359-6386
[email protected]

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