Massachusetts Air Shows Progress, Lung Association Reports

Boston and Springfield metro areas rank among the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that Massachusetts reported improved progress on air pollution throughout its counties and metro areas.  Both Boston and Springfield metro areas were named among the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution, and in a year when most Northeastern cities showed worsened results for year-round particle pollution, Boston showed marked improvement and Springfield showed only a small drop, from 9th to 14th cleanest city for that category.  Both metro areas also recorded fewer unhealthy days for ozone pollution, with Springfield showing the some of the most notable improvement in the Northeast.  Particle pollution and ozone pollution are two of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution. See the full report at

“In many ways, Massachusetts has been a leader when it comes to air quality – and this year we are seeing some rewarding results.  The American Lung Association’s 2021 “State of the Air” report demonstrates great progress, and that we are on the right track when it comes to improving air quality for Massachusetts residents,” said American Lung Association Director for Advocacy in Massachusetts Trevor Summerfield. “Now, our biggest challenge is complacency – because despite the progress made, there is a lot of work to be done. The report reinforced that people of color are significantly more likely to breathe polluted air. Our elected officials must continue to act boldly to recognize climate change, understand and move forward the cause of environmental justice, and acknowledge air pollution as a serious public health concern.”

Overall, the report reinforced the fact that emissions from factories, power plants, diesel- and gasoline-powered motor vehicles (cars and trucks) and equipment play a role in forming ozone and generating dangerous fine particle pollution.  Together, with the rising temperatures due to climate change air quality in the United States is in danger of being degraded, and residents across the country are at an increased risk of air pollution harming health. In addition, Studies show that air pollution exposure is linked to greater risk of respiratory infections, including some evidence that suggests that exposure to air pollution may make people more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. 

The Lung Association recently applauded Massachusetts for joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) Program. By joining the TCI Program, Massachusetts has taken a big, bold and necessary step forward for public health. The program is an important tool to reduce transportation pollution, improve air quality, reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change, improve health and invest in cleaner, faster and more reliable public transportation.  It stands to make a significant impact throughout the state for the coming years, but especially for Boston, Springfield and other heavily trafficked metro areas. 

Notable County Grades on ozone:

  • Throughout the State, no single county received a worsened grade for ozone.
  • The following counties showed improved grades for ozone from the 2020 report to this year’s report: Barnstable (F to D), Essex (F to D), Norfolk (D to C), Worcester (F to D), Franklin (C to A), Hampden (F to C), Hampshire (D to C).
  • Only Bristol and Dukes counties maintained failing grades. 
  • Dukes County was the only county to see an increase of unhealthy ozone days
  • Counties maintaining higher than failing grades form last year include Middlesex (B), Plymouth (D), Suffolk (C)
  • All other counties did not collect this data

Notable county grades on particle pollution: 

  • Throughout the State, all counties maintained A or B grades for short-term particle pollution
  • All counties continued to meet the national standard for year-round particle pollution
  • Counties that measured worsened year-round particle pollution include Barnstable, Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, Worcester, Franklin, Hampshire, and Dukes
  • Hampden was the only counties that measured improved year-round particle pollution 
  • All other counties did not collect this data

Summerfield continued, “We know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the country are facing multiple threats to their lung health at once, including from unhealthy air pollution. It’s critical to keep looking at the state of our air quality and the things that impact it – like climate change and emissions.  We simply must do more to protect and preserve everyone’s right to breathe clean, healthy air and protect themselves from harmful air pollution.”

The year’s report found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. The report shows that nationally people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. In Massachusetts, more than 1.3 million residents living with lung diseases like asthma, COPD and lung cancer, as well as heart disease.  They are already at risk, making them more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. 

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, 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 Jennifer Solomon at [email protected] or 516-680-8927. 

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Solomon
(516) 680-8927
[email protected]

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