Alaska Has Some of the Most-Polluted Areas in the Country According to 2019 'State of the Air' Report

The American Lung Association “State of the Air” 2019 report found that  Alaska has some of the worst air quality in the nation. Many Alaskans are living in areas with unhealthy air with wood-burning stoves and wildfire smoke contributing to poor air quality. These rankings demonstrate a need to work together on solutions to improve the air Alaskans breathe.

The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal.

Alaska has two areas where particle pollution is a problem, both due to wood burning home heating. Data for the 2019 State of the Air report come from air quality monitoring data collected in 2015 – 2017, the most recent years of quality assured data available.

The Mat-Su Borough had a solid drop in unhealthy particle days to 5.3 days in 2015-2017, down from 7.0 in last year’s report. The borough’s annual average particle pollution dropped as well and remains well below the national standard.

The Fairbanks area saw some improvement in air quality, however the particle pollution problem persists. The area worsened to the third most polluted area for short-term particle pollution, but saw a positive uptick to become the third most polluted for annual particle pollution.

Each year, “State of the Air” provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution, which is not an issue in Alaska currently, and particle pollution, sometimes called soot. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Particle pollution is dangerous to public health and can increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.

“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal,” said Marge Stoneking, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Alaska.

Learn more about Alaska’s rankings, as well as air quality across the nation, in the “State of the Air” 2019 report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, and threats to air quality, contact Holly Harvey at [email protected] or 206-512-3292.

Top twenty-five most polluted cities for short-term particle pollution
1.   Bakersfield, CA
2.   Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA
3.   Fairbanks, AK
4.   San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
5.   Missoula, MT
6.   Yakima, WA
7.   Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
8.   Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT
9.   Seattle-Tacoma, WA
10.  Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV
11.  Logan, UT-ID
12.  Visalia, CA
13. Phoenix-Mesa, AZ
14. El Centro, CA
15. Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d’Alene, WA-ID
15. Sacramento-Roseville, CA
17. Medford-Grants Pass, OR
17. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
19. Eugene-Springfield, OR
20. Salinas, CA
21. Mat-Su Borough, AK
22. Bend-Prineville, OR
23. Portland-Vancouver-Salem, OR-WA
25. Bismarck, ND (tie)
25. Pocatello, ID (tie)

For more information, contact:

Holly Harvey
(206) 512-3292
[email protected]

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