New Report: St. Louis Air Quality Gets Mixed Results

Ozone pollution levels improve, yet short term particle pollution levels increased slightly

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that St. Louis' rankings were mixed for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. 

“The levels of ozone and particle pollution seen in the St. Louis 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. 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,” said Susannah Fuchs, director of health promotions for clean air at the Lung Association. 

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 St. Louis Metropolitan Area
Compared to the 2021 report, there were fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked St. Louis metro as the 37th most polluted city for ozone pollution, which is better compared to the ranking of 20th in last year’s report. 

Particle Pollution in St. Louis Metropolitan Area
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The area’s short-term particle pollution got slightly worse in this year’s report as compared to last year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy days. The area is ranked 48th worst for short-term particle pollution and last year’s report ranked the area 57th. The 2022 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels were slightly lower than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 24th most polluted for year-round particle pollution, which is a little bit better than the ranking of 20th last year. 

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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