American Lung Association Report: Alaska’s Air Quality Harmful to Health; 1 in 3 Nationwide Exposed to Unhealthy Air

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in Alaska and across the nation
The American Lung Association’s 24th annual “State of the Air” report highlights that despite decades of strong progress in cleaning the air, Alaskans still face difficult air pollution challenges.

“There has been real progress made in our nation, but there is much work to be done to ensure every American, and every Alaskan has clean, healthy air to breathe, “said Carrie Nyssen, Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses and others more vulnerable like lower-income residents and people of color. Policy makers at the local, state and federal levels must act to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe, and no community is left behind.

Anchorage saw slightly higher annual particle pollution and more short-term particle days in this year’s report with the wildfires in August of 2019 impacting the results. Ranked #37 most polluted for short-term particles and ranked #175 for year-round particles, Anchorage received an F grade for short-term particle pollution. There was no data for ozone.

Fairbanks ranks as one of the cleanest cities for ozone with no unhealthy days. For short-term particle pollution, Fairbanks ranked #3 most polluted with fewer unhealthy days than in the previous report. Ranked #5 most polluted for year-round particles, the annual levels worsened and Fairbanks failed to meet the national air quality standard. Major wildfires and woodstove smoke continue to impact air quality.

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.

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 a failing grade for all three measures. 

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.
 
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