New Report: For First Time Ever, All 6 Charleston Metro Area Counties Reporting for Ozone Smog Posted Zero Unhealthy Days; Worsened for Particle Pollution

Metro Area Drops From Cleanest Cities List for the Short-term Measure
The Charleston-Huntington-Ashland metro area’s air quality has mixed results since last year’s report, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was released today. The 16-county Charleston-Huntington-Ashland, WV-OH-KY metro area ranked for first time as one of the cleanest cities for ozone (tied for 117th worst in last year’s report) but worsened and tied for 118th worst for short-term particle pollution and fell from the cleanest cities list for the measure. 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 the Charleston-Huntington-Ashland to improve our air quality,” said Aleks Casper, Director of Advocacy, VA, DC, MD, DE 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, 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 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 Charleston-Huntington-Ashland, WV-OH-KY 
Compared to the 2022 report, experienced fewer (zero) unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” placed the metro area on the cleanest cities list for ozone pollution for the first time, with all six counties reporting ozone data (Boyd, Carter, and Greenup, KY; Lawrence, OH; and Cabell and Kanawha, WV) posting zero days (an ‘A’ grade) with unhealthy levels of ozone smog.

Particle Pollution in Charleston-Huntington-Ashland, WV-OH-KY 
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. The Charleston metro area’s short-term particle pollution got worse in this year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy days. The area was on the cleanest cities list for the measure last year, but no longer makes the list and is ranked tied for 118th worst for short-term particle pollution. The metro area received a 'B' grade for short-term particle pollution. While the five other graded counties maintained their ‘A’ grades, Boyd County, KY worsened in this year’s report. Still, Boyd County’s weighted average number of unhealthy days, 0.3 (a ‘B’ grade), was much better than the metro area’s worst mark of 7.2 days (an ‘F’ grade) set in Scioto County, OH in 2000-2002.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found the Charleston-Huntington-Ashland metro area, having recorded a best-ever average annual level in last year’s report, has worsened for year-round particle pollution levels in this year’s report, though it continues to meet the national standard. The area was ranked tied for 123rd most polluted for year-round particle pollution in this year’s report, worse than the ranking of 137th last year. Boyd County, KY was worst in the metro area in this year’s report.

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.
For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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