New Report: Colorado Air Still Failing

Ozone levels improve, while particle pollution worsens

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that Colorado rankings were mixed for the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. The Denver metro area and Fort Collins saw fewer days of unhealthy levels of ozone but saw increases in the number of days for particle pollution. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“Overall people in Colorado are impacted by unhealthy air - especially children, those over 65, people with COPD, lung cancer or cardiovascular disease and people of color,” said JoAnna Strother, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association. “Healthy people can also experience shortness of breath and coughing when air pollutants are high. As people spend more time outdoors, these pollution levels put them at increased risk for breathing difficulties – more must be done to protect Colorado’s public health.”

Ozone Pollution in Colorado
Compared to the 2020 report the Denver metro saw improved ozone levels in 2017-2019 but ranked 8th most ozone-polluted metro in the U.S. Fort Collins also saw fewer days with high ozone, ranking 17th for most polluted city in the U.S.

Particle Pollution in Colorado
“State of the Air” 2021 found that year-round particle pollution levels in the Denver and Fort Collins were slightly worse. The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The report found that the Denver metro saw more days of short-term particle spikes worsening its ranking from 35th in last year’s report to 33rd in the 2021 report. Fort Collins also saw more days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels. La Plata county saw a big jump in unhealthy particle pollution days, from zero days in our 2019 report earning an A grade to 6.8 days on average in this year’s report earning an F grade. Cleanest city for year-round particles include Pueblo-Cañon City, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs. Cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution include Edwards-Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction.

The year’s report found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. In Colorado pollution placed the health residents at risk, including those who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as older adults, children and people with a lung disease. The report also shows that people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. The report also finds that climate change made air quality worse and harder to clean up.

The Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of particle pollution (also known as soot) and ozone (smog) over a three-year period – this year’s report covers 2017-2019. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: average annual levels and short-term spikes. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular damage and are linked to developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.

Learn more about “State of the Air” at Lung.org/sota and sign the petition for the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice. Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact James Martinez at [email protected] or 312-445-2501.

For more information, contact:

James A. Martinez
(312) 445-2501
[email protected]

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