Several Arkansas Counties Ranked Cleanest in Nation for Short-Term Particle Pollution; Report Reveals Nationwide Disparities for People of Color

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in Little Rock and across the Nation
The American Lung Association found that several Arkansas counties received high grades for ozone 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 many Arkansas counties have good grades for air pollution, there is much work to be done in Little Rock to improve our air quality,” said Laura Turner, Senior Manager of Advocacy 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, 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 worsen. 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 Arkansas

Compared to the 2022 report, Little Rock experienced the same number unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” tie ranked Little Rock as the 75th most polluted city for ozone pollution, which worsened compared to its tied ranking of 100th in last year’s report. Pulaski County received a “C” grade for ozone pollution. On a positive note, Clark and Newton counties were listed amongst the cleanest cities for ozone pollution in the Southeast.

Fayetteville remained on the list of cleanest cities in the Nation for ozone pollution but had more unhealthy ozone days in this year's report.

Washington County was the only county in the Fayetteville metro area with an increase of unhealthy ozone this year.

Particle Pollution in Arkansas

The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Eleven out of the thirteen counties that have monitors, were listed amongst the cleanest counties in the Nation for short-term particle pollution.

Little Rock’s short-term particle pollution remained the same in this year’s report, which means there were the same number of unhealthy days. The area is tie ranked 118th for short-term particle pollution. Pulaski County received a “B” grade for short-term particle pollution.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Little Rock remained the same as last year’s report. The area was tie ranked 71st most polluted for year-round particle pollution, remaining unchanged at its best-ever year-round average.

Fayetteville again improved to its best-ever level of year-round particle pollution, with a ranking of 134th and continues to meet the national standard.,

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
Asthma Basics Workshop - National
, | Mar 20, 2024
Asthma Basics Workshop - National
, | Apr 17, 2024