SCRANTON, PA | April 20, 2021
This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that the three-county Scranton--Wilkes-Barre metro area continued its long-term trend of general improvement for year-round particle pollution by posting a new best-ever average, and for the sixth consecutive year had zero days when the particle pollution levels reached unhealthy ranges, placing it among the nation’s cleanest cities. For ozone smog, Lackawanna County also got a clean report, as Luzerne County’s days with high levels became a rarer threat. See the full report, based on the three years of data from 2017 through 2019, at Lung.org/sota.
The worst grade in the metro area was Luzerne County’s “B” grade for ozone smog, even as it reached its best ever result. “Though we applaud this progress, positive results in the Wyoming Valley are not guaranteed in future years. More must be done to assure they continue to protect the health of people at risk,” said American Lung Association Director of Environmental Health Kevin Stewart. “One day with unhealthy air is one day too many when air pollution levels are high enough to harm health. Even that one day can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and stroke, placing children, older adults, and people living with chronic lung and heart disease at particular risk. Ozone and particle pollution are the nation’s most harmful and widespread air pollutants, and both can be deadly. In addition, more exposure to particle pollution is linked to worse health outcomes from COVID-19, including more deaths.”
“The American Lung Association’s 2021 ‘State of the Air’ report shows that despite some nationwide progress on cleaning up air pollution, more than 40% of Americans live with unhealthy ozone or particle pollution,” said Stewart. “People of color are significantly more likely to breathe polluted air than white people. As the nation works to address climate change and continue reducing air pollution, we must prioritize the health of disproportionately burdened communities.”
“The burdens of unhealthy air fall heaviest on our children, seniors, lower income communities and residents with existing heart and lung disease. These challenges are only compounded by the increasing well-documented and understood public health threats associated with climate change driven by fossil fuels,” said Stewart. “Our changing climate demands urgent action to reduce impacts to public health, air quality and our quality of life. Therefore, tightening the cap on harmful carbon emissions within the overall drive to reduce carbon pollution from all sectors is a proactive step that Pennsylvania can take by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The regional efforts to reduce power plant emissions are an important step toward securing critical emission reductions.”
Ozone Pollution in the Scranton--Wilkes-Barre metro area: Compared to the 2020 report, the Scranton metro area experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in 2017-2019 than it had in 2016-2018, recording its new best-ever performance.
- Not only was Lackawanna County for the first time in 14 years not the county with the highest ozone results in the metro area, but for the first time ever it reported zero days with unhealthy levels of ozone, earning it an “A” grade and placing it among the cleanest counties in the nation.
- Luzerne County reported the metro area’s new lowest ever weighted average of 0.3 days (a “B” grade) in 2017-2019, displacing Lackawanna County and its previous 1.3 days (a “C” grade, and a level that had been tied for best ever) in last year’s report. The area’s ranking improved to 137th most polluted in the country from 106th worst in last year’s report.
“Ozone pollution can harm even healthy people, but is particularly dangerous for children, older adults and people with lung diseases such as COPD or asthma,” said Stewart. “Breathing ozone-polluted air can trigger asthma attacks in both adults and children with asthma, which can land them in the doctor’s office or the emergency room. Ozone can even shorten people’s lives.”
Particle Pollution in the Scranton--Wilkes-Barre metro area “State of the Air” 2021 found that year-round particle pollution continued its long-term trend of general improvement as the Scranton metro area posted a new best-ever average and met the standard for this pollutant. Lackawanna County, the only county in the metro area with monitoring data, improved its long-term average level, as it had in last year’s report. The area’s ranking improved to 122nd most polluted in the country from 94th worst in last year’s report.
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. For the sixth year in a row, Lackawanna County reported zero days (an “A” grade) with unhealthy levels of fine particle pollution, thereby placing the metro area among the cleanest cities in the nation.
“Particle pollution can lodge deep in the lungs and can even enter the bloodstream. It can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes and cause lung cancer,” said Stewart. Particle pollution comes from industry, coal-fired power plants, construction, agriculture, vehicles, wildfires and wood-burning devices.”
The year’s report found that nationwide, more than four in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. In the Scranton metro area, air pollution placed the health of the more than half million residents at risk, including those who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as older adults, children and people with a lung disease. The report also shows that people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. The report also finds that climate change made air quality worse and harder to clean up.
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 and 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-petition 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 Val.Gleason at [email protected] or 717-971-1123.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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