Cedar Rapids Named One of the Cleanest Cities in New Lung Association Report

“State of the Air” Report reveals that residents faced zero days of poor air quality for short-term particle pollution

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that Iowa’s rankings were mixed for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, and Cedar Falls ranked among the cleanest cities in the U.S. for particles; Clinton and Montgomery counties ranked among the cleanest in the U.S. for ozone. 

“The levels of ozone and particle pollution seen in Polk and Scott counties 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. 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,” said Kristina Hamilton, advocacy director for the Lung Association. 

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 Linn County
Compared to the 2021 report, Linn County experienced slightly more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” gave Linn County a “C” grade for ozone pollution, which is unchanged from last year’s report. 

Particle Pollution in Polk County
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Polk County’s short-term particle pollution got worse in this year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy days. The area received a “C” for short-term particle pollution compared to a “B” in 2021. The 2022 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in most Iowa counties that were monitored were slightly higher 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
[email protected]

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