Birmingham Ranked 35th in Nation and Worst in Southeastern United States for Ozone Pollution; Report Reveals Nationwide Disparities for People of Color

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in Birmingham and across the Nation
Birmingham was named one of the top 25 worst cities in the Nation for annual particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was 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, there is much work to be done in Birmingham to improve our air quality,” said Ashley Lyerly, Senior Director of Advocacy for Alabama for the American Lung Association. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for our residents at highest risk, such as children, older adults, pregnant people 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 a failing grade for all three measures.

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Birmingham
“State of the Air” ranked Birmingham as the 35th most polluted city for ozone pollution, which has worsened compared to its ranking of 39th in last year’s report. Despite Jefferson County having less unhealthy days compared to last year, the county received an “F” grade for ozone pollution.

Particle Pollution in Birmingham
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Birmingham’s short-term particle pollution remained the same, matching last year’s slightly worsened average number of unhealthy days. The area is tie ranked 118th worst for short-term particle pollution. Jefferson County received a “B” grade for short-term particle pollution.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Birmingham were significantly higher than in last year’s report. The area was ranked the worst in the Southeastern United States for ozone smog and year-round 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.

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