New Report: Mixed Findings for Air Quality in Omaha-Council Bluff

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that Omaha-Council Bluff rankings were mixed for the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. 

The levels of ozone seen in Omaha- Council Bluff can harm the health of all of our residents, but place our children, older adults and people living with lung disease particularly at risk). We are happy to see light improvement in areas, but more can be down to protect our health said American Lung Association Julia McCarville, Executive Director in Nebraska 

Ozone Pollution in Omaha-Council Bluff 
Compared to the 2020 report, Omaha- Council Bluff experienced the same number of ozone days (1.3 on average) in 2017-2019 as in the prior year’s report. Douglas County, NE had the same 1.3 days (a C) in 2017-2019 as it did in last year’s report. Harrison County, IA maintained the same level as in last year’s report (0.7 days, a B.) The metro area suffered its worst ozone in 2000-2002 and 2001-2003, when the metro had 10.5 unhealthy days on average each year. These averages are based on the more protective ozone standard adopted in 2015.

Particle Pollution in Omaha – Council Bluff 
“State of the Air” 2021 found that year-round particle pollution levels in Omaha-Council Bluff were significantly lower than in last year’s report... The metro area had a slightly lower annual level of particle pollution than last year’s report and continues to meet the national air quality standard. The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal.  The metro area saw slightly fewer unhealthy particle days on average compared to last year, achieving the fewest ever days (0.3) in 2017-2019. 

Sarpy County, NE monitored the highest particle pollution in the metro area at 8.8 µg/m3 in SOTA 2021 (improved from the 8.9 micrograms reported in SOTA 2020). For short-term levels, Pottawattamie County, IA had the highest number of days in the metro area and reduced the average number of unhealthy days to 0.3 (B) in 2017-2019(down from 0.7 in Sarpy County, NE in the last report, also a B). All counties earned an A, including Sarpy County, NE and Douglas County, NE that both improved to an A.

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. In Omaha-Council Bluff, Ozone pollution placed the health of metro 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 Lung.org/sota and sign the petition for the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice. 

For more information, contact:

James A. Martinez
(312) 445-2501
[email protected]

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