PHOENIX, AK | April 3, 2019
The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report found Phoenix has earned poorer rankings for the nation’s most widespread air pollutants. The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. The 20th annual report found Phoenix experienced more unhealthy days of ozone and saw an increase in particle pollution.
“Phoenix residents should be aware that we’re breathing unhealthy air, placing our health and lives at risk,” said American Lung Association director of advocacy, JoAnna Strother. “In addition to challenges here in Phoenix, the 20th-anniversary ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that more than 4 in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we’re heading in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting public health.”
This year’s report covers the most recent quality-assured data available collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2015-2017. Notably, those three years were the hottest recorded in global history.
Each year the “State of the Air” provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution, also known as smog, and particle pollution, also called soot. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.
Ozone Pollution in Phoenix
Compared to the 2018 report, Phoenix experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report.
“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said JoAnna Strother, Director of Advocacy of the American Lung Association in Phoenix. “When older adults or children with asthma breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room. Ozone can even shorten life itself.”
This report documents how warmer temperatures brought by climate change make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up. This year’s report showed that ozone levels increased in most cities nationwide, in large part due to the record-breaking global heat experienced in the three years tracked in the report.
Particle Pollution in Phoenix
The 2019 report also found year-round particle pollution levels slightly higher than the 2018 report. Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution.
“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal,” said Strother. “Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines.”
“State of the Air” 2019 also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The report found that Phoenix had more days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels.
While the report examined data from 2015-2017, this 20th annual report online provides information on air pollution trends back to the first report. Learn more about Phoenix rankings, as well as air quality across Arizona and the nation, in the 2019 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, and threats to air quality, contact James Martinez at James.Martinez@Lung.org or 312-445-2501.
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