New Report: Birmingham’s Air Quality Remains Varied, Residents Exposed to Unhealthy Air Pollution

American Lung Association “State of the Air” Report reveals that residents faced fewer days of poor air quality

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that Birmingham’s rankings were mixed for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. Birmingham continues to have some of the worst air quality in the Southeast. 

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. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“The levels of ozone and particle pollution seen in Birmingham 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 Ashley Lyerly, Senior Director of Advocacy for Alabama for the Lung Association. “Fortunately, the area did see an improvement in the levels of ozone.”

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Birmingham
Compared to the 2021 report, Birmingham experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked Birmingham as the 39th most polluted city for ozone pollution, which is better compared to their ranking of tying 35th in last year’s report. The area received an “F” grade for ozone pollution.

Particle Pollution in Birmingham
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Birmingham’s short-term particle pollution worsened in this year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy days. The area is ranked 99th worst for short-term particle pollution. The 2022 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Birmingham were their best ever. However, Birmingham still ranks among the nation’s worst and is the third worst in the Southeast. The area was ranked 29th most polluted for year-round particle pollution. 

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 American 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.

Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact Jill Smith at [email protected] or 704-818-4138. 

For more information, contact:

Jill Smith
704-818-4138
[email protected]

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