American Lung Association Report: New Orleans’s Air Quality Improves; 1 in 3 Nationwide Exposed to Unhealthy Air

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in New Orleans and across the Nation
New Orleans’s air quality has improved since last year’s report, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was released today. 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.

The New Orleans metro area was named one of the top 25 best cities in the Nation for short-term particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was released today. 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.

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.

“Here in New Orleans and across the Nation, we are seeing ozone pollution improving, thanks in big part to the success of the Clean Air Act. But there is more work to do,” said Ashley Lyerly, Senior Director of Advocacy for Louisiana for the American 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 New Orleans
Like the 2022 report, New Orleans experienced the same number of unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” tie ranked New Orleans as the 91st most polluted city for ozone pollution, which has worsened compared to its tied ranking of 100th in last year’s report. Jefferson Parish, displaced St. Bernard Parish as the worst parish in the metro area for ozone smog, receiving a “B” grade for ozone pollution.

Particle Pollution in New Orleans
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. New Orleans ranked again as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution with zero unhealthy days.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in New Orlans were the best ever, significantly lower than in last year’s report. The area was tie ranked 134th most polluted for year-round particle pollution, better than the tie ranking of 105th last year.

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.

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