New Report: Northeast Minnesota is Leading the Way with Some of the Cleanest Air Rankings in the Country

Minnesota receives passing grades in Lung Association “State of the Air” Report

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that Minnesota’s rankings included good news for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. The counties of Carlton, Cook, and Lake, along with the city of Duluth, led the way with rankings as some of the cleanest in the country. 

“High levels of ozone and/or particle pollution can harm the health of all our residents, but particularly at risk are children, older adults, pregnant people and those living with chronic disease,” said Jon Hunter, senior director of clean air 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, most of our grades are A’s or B’s across the state.”

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
Compared to the 2021 report, Wright County experienced one fewer unhealthy day of high ozone in this year’s report, but that was not enough to improve its C grade yet. In fact, all of Minnesota’s counties that received grades stayed at the same letter from the previous year. On a positive note, “State of the Air” highlighted Duluth as one of the cleanest cities in the U.S. for ozone pollution.

Particle Pollution
Continuing Duluth’s good news, the city ranked 12th in the nation on the list of the cleanest U.S. cities for the year-round particle pollution level. Three counties in that area also ranked in the top 25 for cleanest counties on the year-round particle pollution chart. Those counties are Carlton, tied for third nationally, Cook, which tied for 17th, and Lake with its tie for 22nd. 

The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Four Minnesota counties slipped from A to B grades for short-term particle pollution in this year’s report, which means there were unhealthy days in these counties that had none in last year’s report. Those counties are Dakota, Hennepin, Olmsted, and Scott. 

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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