Idaho Has Some of the Most-Polluted Areas in the Country According to 2019 'State of the Air' Report

Wildfires across the state impact air quality

Idaho air quality is getting worse, and the state is now home to several of the top 25 most polluted areas in the country, the American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report finds.  Much of the drop in air quality is caused by wildfires, which are increasing as a result of climate change.

The Logan UT-ID, Coeur d’Alene-Spokane Valley and Pocatello areas ranked as the 11th, 15th and 25th most polluted area for short-term particle pollution respectively in the U.S., worse than last year. Lemhi and Shoshone counties ranked 15th and 17th most-polluted for annual particle pollution respectively. No Idaho county in the report received higher than a “D” grade for particle pollution.

The report tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Several areas in Idaho experienced more days on average of spikes in particle pollution and many of these spikes in were directly linked to events like wildfires, which are increasing in frequency and intensity in many areas due to climate change.

“People in Idaho should know that we’re breathing unhealthy air, and much of this unhealthy air is driven by wildfires that are a result of climate change,” said Heather Kimmel, Health Promotions Director for the American Lung Association in Idaho. “Such polluted air places our health and lives at risk.  The ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that more than four in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we have to do more to protect public health.”

Each year the “State of the Air” provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution, also known as smog, and particle pollution, also called soot. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.

“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and worse,” said Kimmel.

While the report examined data from 2015-2017, this 20th annual report online provides information on air pollution trends back to the first report. Learn more about Idaho’s rankings, as well as air quality across the nation, in the 2019 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, and threats to air quality, contact Holly Harvey at [email protected] or 206-512-3292.

Top twenty-five most polluted cities for short-term particle pollution
1.   Bakersfield, CA
2.   Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA
3.   Fairbanks, AK
4.   San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
5.   Missoula, MT
6.   Yakima, WA
7.   Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
8.   Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT
9.   Seattle-Tacoma, WA
10.  Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV
11.  Logan, UT-ID
12.  Visalia, CA
13. Phoenix-Mesa, AZ
14. El Centro, CA
15. Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d’Alene, WA-ID
15. Sacramento-Roseville, CA
17. Medford-Grants Pass, OR
17. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
19. Eugene-Springfield, OR
20. Salinas, CA
21. Anchorage, AK
22. Bend-Prineville, OR
23. Portland-Vancouver-Salem, OR-WA
25. Bismarck, ND (tie)
25. Pocatello, ID (tie)

For more information, contact:

Holly Harvey
(206) 512-3292
[email protected]

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