American Lung Association Report: Lancaster’s Daily Measure of Fine Particle Pollution Worsens for Third Straight Year, Places Area Back on List of 25 Worst Cities; At 4th Year in a Row of Improvement

1 in 3 Nationwide Exposed to Unhealthy Air
The Lancaster metro area’s air quality for ozone smog has improved to its best-ever ranking, tied at 91st most polluted, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was released today. Nevertheless, the single-county metro area worsened for both short-term and year-round particle pollution since last year’s report. The more serious change was the county’s third consecutive year of worsening for short-term levels that dropped the metro area from a ‘C’ grade and 40th worst ranking in the 2020 report to its current ‘F’ grade and position of 24th worst in the country. Nationally, the report found that nearly 120 million people, or more than one in three, in the U.S. live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

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.

“Here in Lancaster and across the nation, we are seeing ozone pollution improving, thanks in big part to the success of the Clean Air Act. But there is more work to do,” said Aimee Van Cleave, Director of Advocacy for the Lung Association. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for our residents at highest risk, such as children, older adults, individuals who are pregnant and those living with chronic disease. That’s why we are calling on lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to take action to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe.”

“We know that social disparities lead to health disparities, and that is also reflected in this report which shows that improvement has been uneven where people of color and those living in poverty are more likely to live in an area where they are exposed to more poor air quality days. It is time that we take steps to address both environmental and structural inequalities that lead to these outcomes,” said Van Cleave. 
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. 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Lancaster Metro Area
Compared to the 2022 report, the metro area experienced fewer unhealthy days (improving to a new best ever) of high ozone in this year’s report. The weighted average number of days high in ozone decreased from 1.7 (a ‘C’ grade) in last year’s report to a best-ever 0.7 (a ‘B’ grade) in the current report. “State of the Air’s” ranking for the metro area improved to tied for 91st most polluted city for ozone pollution, compared to its ranking of 77th worth in last year’s report.

Particle Pollution in Lancaster Metro Area
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. The metro area’s short-term particle pollution worsened for the third consecutive year, with more unhealthy air days. Even as increases were observed in this pollutant nationwide, Lancaster’s ranking still worsened from 28th in last year’s report to 24th in this year’s—placing Lancaster back on the list of the nation’s 25 most polluted cities. Lancaster County earned an 'F' grade for a third straight year, this year with a weighted average of 7.3 days for short-term particle pollution, worse than its 5.3 days in last year’s report, and the largest increase in the eastern half of the country.

Furthermore, the 2023 “State of the Air” report found that the year-round average level of particle pollution in Lancaster was slightly higher than in last year’s report but still met the national standard. This worsening occurred after the area’s fourth consecutive year of improvement to its best-ever levels. Despite the change, the metro area kept last year’s same ranking tied at 42nd most polluted for year-round particle pollution. 

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.
For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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