New Report Shows Mixed Results for Philadelphia-Reading-Camden Metro Area Air Quality: Continues to Rank Among Worst 25 Cities in Nation for Year-Round Particle Pollution

Improves to Best Ever for Ozone Smog, No Longer on Worst-25 Cities List

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that national rankings for the 16-county Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD metro area improved for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. Nevertheless, the year-round levels of fine particle pollution, though meeting the air quality standard, were slightly worse, and placed the metro at 18th worst in the country in this year’s report.  

The “State of the Air” report is the Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” that tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog), annual particle pollution (also known as soot), and short-term spikes in particle pollution, over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2018-2020. See the full report at Lung.org/sota. 

“The levels of ozone and particle pollution seen in the Philadelphia-Reading-Camden metro area can harm the health of all of our residents, but particularly at risk are children, older adults, pregnant people and those living with chronic disease. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer,” said Molly Pisciottano, Director of Advocacy for the Lung Association. “Fortunately, the area did see an improvement in the daily levels of ozone smog and fine particle pollution.” 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Philadelphia-Reading-Camden Metro Area 

Compared to the 2021 report, the Philadelphia-Reading-Camden metro area experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report, improving to its best ever. However, the Philadelphia metro area continued to receive a failing grade for ozone smog, with Bucks County joining Philadelphia County as worst in the metro area, and “State of the Air” ranked the metro area as the 29th most polluted city in the country for ozone pollution, which is better compared to its ranking of 21st worst in last year’s report. 

Particle Pollution in Philadelphia-Reading-Camden Metro Area  

The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The Philadelphia-Reading-Camden metro area’s short-term particle pollution slightly improved in this year’s report. Delaware County overtook Berks County as most polluted in the metro area, posting slightly fewer unhealthy days than in last year’s report, yet still earning a “D” grade. The metro area’s rank improved from 39th to 44th worst for short-term particle pollution. 

In contrast, the 2022 “State of the Air” report found that year-round particle pollution levels in the Philadelphia metro area were  slightly worse than in last year’s report, with the metro area continuing to rank among the nation’s 25 worst cities at 18th worst (17th last year). Delaware County continued as the most-polluted county in the metro area, but nevertheless met the national air quality standard, as the metro area has done for the sixth year in a row. 

The report found that nationwide, nearly 9 million more people were impacted by deadly particle pollution than reported last year. It also shows more days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality than ever before in the two-decade history of this report. Overall, more than 137 million Americans live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. Communities of color are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air. The report found that people of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant, and 3.6 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three pollutants. 

The addition of 2020 data to the 2022 “State of the Air” report gives a first look at air quality trends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the shutdowns in early 2020, there was no obvious improvement.  

The American Lung Association is calling on the Biden administration to strengthen the national limits on both short-term and year-round particulate matter air pollution. Stronger standards will educate the public about air pollution levels that threaten their health and drive the cleanup of polluting sources in communities across the country. See the full report results and sign the petition at LUNG.org/SOTA. 

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.  

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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