American Lung Association Report: Washington-Baltimore-Arlington Metro Area Residents Exposed to More Unhealthy Air Days of Particle Pollution; Area Continues to Earn Failing Grade for Ozone

1 in 3 Nationwide Exposed to Unhealthy Air
The Washington-Baltimore-Arlington metro area’s air quality worsened for 24-hour and year-round particle pollution since last year’s report and continues to post an ‘F’ grade for ozone smog, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was released today. The metro area ranked tied for 62nd most polluted for short-term particle pollution (compared to tied for 63rd in last year’s report), with more unhealthy air days. 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.

Even though its weighted average number of days with unhealthy levels of ozone smog did not change since last year’s report, the metro area’s rank worsened from 30th to 26th worst in the nation out of more than 200 metro areas, the “State of the Air” report found. 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 Washington-Baltimore-Arlington metro area to improve our air quality,” said Aleks Casper, Advocacy Director, DC, MD, VA, 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 Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-VA-MD-WV-PA Metro Area
Compared to the 2022 report, the metro area was unchanged for its number of unhealthy days of ozone smog pollution, still matching its best-ever posting last year of 6.7 days per year. “State of the Air” ranked the metro area as 26th most polluted city in the nation for ozone pollution. Baltimore County displaced Harford County, MD as the worst county in the metro area with the worst performance for ozone in this year’s report and earned an ‘F’ grade. Harford, Prince George’s, and Anne Arundel Counties, all in Maryland, also continued to earn ‘F’ grades.

Particle Pollution in Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-VA-MD-WV-PA Metro Area 
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. The metro area’s short-term particle pollution worsened in this year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy days. The area tied for 62nd worst for short-term particle pollution (having tied for 63rd in last year’s report). The metro area received a “C” grade for short-term particle pollution. The District of Columbia, the most polluted part of the metro area, posted a weighted average of 1.8 days (a ‘C’ grade) high in fine particle pollution for this year’s report, worse than its average of 1.0 days in last year’s report (also a ‘C’ grade).

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in the metro area were very slightly higher than in last year’s report though still meeting the national standard. Nevertheless, because of even worse performance in areas across the country, the metro area was ranked tied for 79th most polluted for year-round particle pollution, a slightly better place than last year’s ranking. The District was again the most polluted jurisdiction in the metro area for year-round particle pollution. 

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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