Phoenix Ranked 5th in Nation for Ozone Pollution; Report Reveals Nationwide Disparities for People of Color

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in Phoenix and across the nation
Phoenix was named one of the top 5 worst cities in the nation for ozone 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 Phoenix to improve our air quality,” said JoAnna Strother, senior advocacy director 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, those 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 Across Arizona
Compared to the 2022 report, Phoenix experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked Phoenix as the #5 most polluted city for ozone pollution, which is the same compared to its ranking in last year’s report. Maricopa County received an “F” grade for ozone pollution.

Tucson-Nogales experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone and saw a slightly better ranking moving from #41 in last year’s report to #40 in “State of the Air” 2023. 

Flagstaff saw zero unhealthy days earning a spot on the cleanest cities list. 


Particle Pollution Across Arizona
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Phoenix’s short-term particle pollution improved in this year’s report, which means there were fewer unhealthy days. The area is ranked #13 worst for short-term particle pollution which is better than #11 in last year’s report. Maricopa County received an “F” grade for short-term particle pollution.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Phoenix were higher than in last year’s report. The area is ranked #7 most polluted for year-round particle pollution, worse than the ranking of #8 last year. 

Tucson-Nogales’s short-term particle pollution stayed the same seeing the same number of days but an improved ranking to #42 up from #38 in last year’s report. The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Tucson-Nogales was higher than in last year’s report. The area is ranked #30 most polluted for year-round particle pollution, worse than the ranking of #44 last year.

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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