American Lung Association Report: 1 in 3 Nationwide Exposed to Unhealthy Air

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in Oregon and across the nation
The American Lung Association’s 24th annual “State of the Air” report highlights that despite decades of progress in cleaning our air, Oregonians still face challenges with poor air quality. Particle pollution remains the predominant issue, both in cities and in rural areas, largely due to wildfires and woodsmoke.

“We have made real progress in Oregon, but there is much more work to be done to ensure everyone in our state has clean, healthy air to breathe,” said Carrie Nyssen, Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses and other vulnerable populations including lower-income residents, and people of color. Policymakers at the local, state and federal levels must act to ensure that we all have clean air to breathe, and no community is left behind.”

Two cities appear on the Top 25 most polluted for short-term particle pollution (Eugene-Springfield #12 and Medford-Grants Pass #25).

Eugene recorded more days for short-term particle pollution and also ranked #15 most polluted for annual particles. Eugene has previously been on the cleanest city list for ozone but ranked #111 for unhealthy ozone days in this year’s report.

Medford-Grants Pass ranked #7 most polluted for year-round particles and still doesn’t meet the standard due to increasing presence of wildfires. This area ranked #75 most polluted for ozone and experienced fewer days in this year’s report.

Bend-Pineville ranked #48 most polluted for short-term particle pollution and #23 most polluted for year-round particles. No ozone data was available.

The metropolitan statistical area of Portland-Vancouver-Salem ranked #56 most polluted for ozone and #27 most polluted for short-term particle pollution. The area saw improvements in unhealthy particle pollution days and annual particle levels (ranked #74).

“Oregon must shift to zero-emission technologies and invest public funds only in transportation projects that support healthy air,” said Nyssen. “We can’t continue to invest in projects that contribute to poor air quality and health disparities.  Setting stronger standards for zero-emission trucks are among the best opportunities we have to protect health. Ensuring our state is well equipped to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires smoke events is also a major need in our quest for clean air.”

The Lung Association’s 24th annual “State of the Air” report grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution, annual particle pollution and short-term spikes in particle pollution over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2019-2021.

Nationally, the report found that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act. However, more work remains to fully clean up harmful pollution, and short-term particle pollution continues to get worse. In addition, some communities bear a greater burden of air pollution. Out of the nearly 120 million people who live in areas with unhealthy air quality, a disproportionate number – more than 64 million (54%) – are people of color. In fact, people of color were 64% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one measure, and 3.7 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three measures. 

The American Lung Association is calling on President Biden to urgently move forward on several measures to clean up air pollution nationwide, including new pollution limits on ozone and particle pollution and new measures to clean up power plants and vehicles. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA.
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