Lancaster County: Days with High Particle Pollution Place Lancaster Metro Area Among Worst 25 in Country for This Measure, But Year-round Particle Pollution at Best Ever Results,

Finds 2021 ‘State of the Air’ Report. Ozone Smog Improves to “C” Grade But Still a Threat.

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that the Lancaster County metro area improved to its best ever year-round level of fine particle pollution, and met the national air quality standard, but still ranks as 36th worst in the nation for this pollutant measure. Days with high levels of particle pollution worsened significantly, earning the area an “F” grade and ranking it (at 24th place) on the list of 25 worst cities for that measure. The frequency of days high in ozone smog improved, but this pollutant remained a threat. See the full report, based on the three years of data from 2017 through 2019, at 

Lancaster worsened to an “F” for the daily measure of particle pollution and improved to a “C” for ozone smog, reaching the metro area’s best ever result for ozone. “Clearly, both show room for improvement and more must be done to protect the health of people at risk,” said American Lung Association Director of Environmental Health Kevin Stewart. “There are still many days when the air pollution levels are high enough to harm health and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and stroke, placing children, older adults, and people living with chronic lung and heart disease at particular risk. Ozone and particle pollution are the nation’s most harmful and widespread air pollutants, and both can be deadly. In addition, more exposure to particle pollution is linked to worse health outcomes from COVID-19, including more deaths.” 

“The American Lung Association’s 2021 ‘State of the Air’ report shows that despite some nationwide progress on cleaning up air pollution, more than 40% of Americans live with unhealthy ozone or particle pollution,” said Stewart. “People of color are significantly more likely to breathe polluted air than white people. As the nation works to address climate change and continue reducing air pollution, we must prioritize the health of disproportionately burdened communities.”  

Particle Pollution in Lancaster County - “State of the Air” 2021 tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. After three straight years of improvement, Lancaster County posted a significantly worse average number of unhealthy days for fine particle pollution, 4.5 days (an F grade) in 2017-2019, worse than the 2.0 days (a C) reported in 2016-2018. Though this result was an improvement over the area’s worst period, covered in 2013-2015, when Lancaster County had 9.2 days, it was still enough to rank Lancaster as 24th worst in the United States for this measure, returning it to the “worst 25 cities” list, having been tied for 40th worst in last year’s report. 

In contrast, the report found that year-round particle pollution levels in Lancaster County improved to its best ever of 9.6 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter), compared to the 9.8 µg/m3 reported in last year’s report covering 2016-2018. These levels earn grades of “Pass,” and meet the national air quality standards. They are much better than Lancaster’s long-term average of 12.8 µg/m3 (a failing mark) reported just three years ago. The area’s ranking improved to 119th most polluted in the country from 81st worst in last year’s report. Though improving from last year’s position at 27th worst in the country, Lancaster still ranks poorly—at 36th worst in the nation for this pollutant measure. 

“Particle pollution can lodge deep in the lungs and can even enter the bloodstream. It can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes and cause lung cancer,” said Stewart. Particle pollution comes from industry, coal-fired power plants, construction, agriculture, vehicles, wildfires and wood-burning devices.”   

Ozone Pollution in Lancaster County - Compared to the 2020 report, Lancaster County experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone, improving its weighted average days to 2.0 days (a C grade) in 2017-2019, better than the weighted average of 3.0 days (a D) reported in 2016-2018. Due to similar improvements in many areas of the country, the area’s ranking remained relatively stagnant, actually worsening a little to 72nd most polluted in the nation from 74th worst in last year’s report. 

“Ozone pollution can harm even healthy people, but is particularly dangerous for children, older adults and people with lung diseases such as COPD or asthma,” said Stewart. “Breathing ozone-polluted air can trigger asthma attacks in both adults and children with asthma, which can land them in the doctor’s office or the emergency room. Ozone can even shorten people’s lives.”   

Thia year’s report found that nationwide, more than four in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. In Lancaster County, air pollution placed the health of more than half a million residents at risk, including those who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as older adults, children and people with a lung disease. The report also shows that people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. The report also finds that climate change made air quality worse and harder to clean up. 

The Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of particle pollution (also known as soot) and ozone (smog) over a three-year period—this year’s report covers 2017-2019. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: average annual levels and short-term spikes. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular damage, and are linked to developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer. 

Learn more about “State of the Air” at and sign the petition for the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice. Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact Val.Gleason at [email protected] or 717-971-1123.  

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
[email protected]

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