Chicago Named One of the Most Polluted Cities in New Lung Association Report

“State of the Air” Report reveals that residents faced more days of poor air quality due to ozone pollution

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that Chicago’s rankings were mixed for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. Chicago ranked 16th for most polluted city in the U.S. for ozone. Despite some improvement, Chicago still ranked 22nd for year-round particle pollution.

“The levels of ozone and particle pollution seen in Chicago can harm the health of all of our residents, but particularly at risk are children, older adults, pregnant people and those living with chronic disease,” said Kristina Hamilton, advocacy director for the Lung Association. “Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer. Fortunately, the area did see a significant improvement in the levels of short-term particle pollution.”

The “State of the Air” report is the Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” that tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog), annual particle pollution (also known as soot), and short-term spikes in particle pollution, over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2018-2020. 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Chicago
Compared to the 2021 report, Chicago and the collar counties experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties received an “F” grade for ozone pollution.

Particle Pollution in Will County
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Will County’s short-term particle pollution got worse in this year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy days. The Chicago-Naperville area is ranked 75th worst in the nation for short-term particle pollution,  compared to 50th in 2021. The 2022 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Chicago were slightly lower than in last year’s report. 

The report found that nationwide, nearly 9 million more people were impacted by deadly particle pollution than reported last year. It also shows more days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality than ever before in the two-decade history of this report. Overall, more than 137 million Americans live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. Communities of color are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air. The report found that people of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant, and 3.6 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three pollutants.

The addition of 2020 data to the 2022 “State of the Air” report gives a first look at air quality trends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the shutdowns in early 2020, there was no obvious improvement. 

The Lung Association is calling on the Biden administration to strengthen the national limits on both short-term and year-round particulate matter air pollution. Stronger standards will educate the public about air pollution levels that threaten their health and drive the cleanup of polluting sources in communities across the country. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA.

For more information, contact:

Dana Kauffman
312-940-7624
[email protected]

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