New Report: Severe Wildfires Continue to Impact Oregon’s Air Quality Exposing Residents to Unhealthy Levels of Air Pollution

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

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that Oregon’s rankings were mixed for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. Particle pollution remains the prominent pollutant, largely due to seasonal severe wildfires and woodsmoke. 

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 high levels of particle pollution around Oregon 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 Carrie Nyssen, Senior Director of Advocacy for the Lung Association.

Ground-level Ozone Pollution 
In Oregon, ozone is less prominent than particle pollution. Eugene made the list for cleanest cities for ozone pollution. Medford-Grants Pass and Portland saw slight improvements in ozone from the previous report. 

Particle Pollution 
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Eugene-Springfield (15), Portland-Vancouver-Salem (19) and Medford-Grants Pass (21) all made the top 25 list for short-term particle pollution. 

Three cities also appeared on the most polluted for annual particles -- Medford-Grants Pass (6), Bend-Prineville (15) and Eugene-Springfield (18). 

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.

For more information, contact:

Oregon Media Contact

[email protected]

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