New Report: Kansas City Area Air Quality Gets Mixed Results, Residents Exposed to Fewer High Ozone Days but Slightly More Days of Unhealthy Particle Pollution

Lung Association “State of the Air” Report reveals that area rankings improved for the city’s year-round particle pollution and worsened for city’s short-term particle pollution

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that the greater Kansas City area’s rankings were mixed for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. Most notably, the area’s ranking in the list of most polluted cities for year-round particle pollution dropped from 88th to 42nd. 

“The levels of particle pollution seen in the greater Kansas City metro area 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 Sara Prem, director of advocacy 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 an improvement in the levels of ozone 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 the Kansas City Metropolitan Area
Compared to the 2021 report, the metropolitan area experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked the area as the 48th most polluted city for ozone pollution, which reflects fewer days of high ozone pollution yet the same national ranking as last year’s report.  

Particle Pollution in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The metro area’s annual level of particle pollution improved over last year, but the metro area’s most polluted county last year had incomplete data in 2018-2020. The metro area also had slightly more unhealthy particle days on average that 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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