New Report: Rhode Island’s Air Quality Improved Residents Exposed to Less Unhealthy Air Pollution

American Lung Association “State of the Air” Report reveals that residents faced fewer days of poor air quality

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that Rhode Island’s counties improved their grades for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. The Boston-Worcester-Providence metro area, which includes Rhode Island’s 5 counties improved for ozone for the second year in a row, and ranked as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution for the third year in a row. 

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.

“On unhealthy air days, ozone and particle pollution 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 Daniel Fitzgerald, director of advocacy for the Lung Association in Rhode Island. “Fortunately, the area did see an improvement in the levels of both pollutants this year.”

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Providence
Compared to the 2021 report, the Boston-Worcester-Providence metro area experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked the metro area as the 47 most polluted city for ozone pollution, which is better compared to their ranking of 40 in last year’s report. 

Notable County Grades on ozone:

  • Two of the three reporting counties, Kent and Washington, improved their grades from F to D, while Providence maintained the failing grades from last year’s report
  • Each county reported decreased levels of ozone pollution
  • All other counties did not collect this data

Particle Pollution in Providence
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Providence’s short-term particle pollution maintained an A grade in this year’s report, which means there were zero unhealthy days.  However, Providence continued to rank as the most polluted county in the Boston-Worcester-Providence metro area for year round particle pollution. The area is ranked 86th most polluted for year-round particle pollution, slightly better than the ranking of 84 last year). 

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
  • Washington County ranked as one of three of the cleanest counties in the nation for year-round particle pollution
  • Providence county ranked as the most polluted for year-round particle pollution in the Boston-Worcester-Providence metro area


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 Jennifer Solomon at 516-680-8927 or [email protected]

For more information, contact:

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

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