Providence Air Shows Progress, Lung Association Reports

Three Rhode Island Counties Receive Failing Grades for Ozone Level

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that Rhode Island reported progress on air pollution throughout its counties and metro areas.  The Providence metro area (including Boston and Worcester Massachusetts) was among the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution and showed improvement for year-round particle pollution. Counties within the metro area  also recorded fewer unhealthy days for ozone pollution.  Particle pollution and ozone pollution are two of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“In many ways, Rhode Island’s report tells the story of air quality throughout the nation.  The American Lung Association’s 2021 ‘State of the Air’ report demonstrates long-term and gradual progress in the state, and the critical need to continue our work to improve air quality for Rhode Island residents,” said American Lung Association Director of Advocacy in Rhode Island Daniel Fitzgerald. “The report also reinforced that people of color are significantly more likely to breathe polluted air. Our elected officials must continue to act boldly to recognize climate change, understand and move forward the cause of environmental justice, and acknowledge air pollution as a serious public health concern.”

Overall, the report reinforced the fact that emissions from factories, power plants, diesel- and gasoline-powered motor vehicles (cars and trucks) and equipment play a role in forming ozone and generating dangerous fine particle pollution.  Together, with the rising temperatures due to climate change air quality in the United States is in danger of being degraded, and residents across the country are at an increased risk of air pollution harming health. In addition, Studies show that air pollution exposure is linked to greater risk of respiratory infections, including some evidence that suggests that exposure to air pollution may make people more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. 

The Lung Association recently applauded Rhode Island for joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) Program and passing the Rhode Island Act on Climate. These initiatives represent big, bold and necessary steps forward for public health. Together they will reduce transportation pollution, improve air quality, reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change, improve health and invest in cleaner, faster and more reliable public transportation.  They stand to make a significant impact throughout the state for the coming years, but especially for Providence and other heavily trafficked metro areas. 

Notable County Grades on ozone:

  • All three reporting counties, Kent, Providence and Washington, maintained failing grades from last year’s report
  • Despite failing grades, each county reported decreased levels of ozone pollution
  • All other counties did not collect this data

Notable county grades on particle pollution: 

  • All three reporting counties maintained A grades for short-term particle pollution
  • All counties continued to meet the national standard for year-round particle pollution
  • All three reporting counties reported improved levels of year-round particle pollution
  • Providence county ranked as the most polluted for year-round particle pollution in the Boston-Worcester-Providence metro area
  • All other counties did not collect this data

Fitzgerald continued, “We know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the country are facing multiple threats to their lung health at once, including from unhealthy air pollution. It’s critical to keep looking at the state of our air quality and the things that impact it – like climate change and emissions.  We simply must do more to protect and preserve everyone’s right to breathe clean, healthy air and protect themselves from harmful air pollution.”

The year’s report found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. The report shows that nationally people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. In Rhode Island, more than 200,000 residents are living with lung diseases like asthma, COPD and lung cancer, as well as heart disease.  They are already at risk, making them more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. 

The Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of particle pollution (also known as soot) and ozone (smog) over a three-year period – this year’s report covers 2017-2019. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: average annual levels and short-term spikes. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and are linked to developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.

Learn more about “State of the Air” at Lung.org/sota and sign the petition for the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice. Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact Jennifer Solomon at [email protected] or 516-680-8927. 

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Solomon
(516) 680-8927
[email protected]

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