Charleston-Huntington-Ashland Metro Area Receives “B” Grade for Best Ever Results for Ozone Smog

Year-round Particle Pollution Also Best, Finds 2021 ‘State of the Air’ Report, But Days with High Ozone or Particles Remain a Threat

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that the 16-county Charleston-Huntington-Ashland, WV-OH-KY metro area improved to its best ever year-round level of fine particle pollution for the 12th consecutive year, and for the eighth year met the national air quality standard. Days with high levels of ozone smog or particle pollution were rare but remained a threat. See the full report, based on the three years of data from 2017 through 2019, at . 

The worst grades in the metro area for the daily measures of particle pollution and ozone smog remain above average, the latter measure reaching its best ever result.  “While the Charleston-Huntington-Ashland metro areas received B’s for particle pollution and ozone smog, there is room for improvement and more to be done to protect the health of people at risk,” said American Lung Association Director of Environmental Health Kevin Stewart. “There are still days when the air pollution levels are high enough to harm health and place 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.” 

“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.”  

Ozone Pollution in Charleston-Huntington-Ashland metro area - compared to the 2020 report, the Charleston metro area experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone, achieving a new best-ever performance. Three counties, Lawrence County, OH and Cabell and Kanawha Counties, WV, each recorded an average of 0.7 days (a B grade) high in ozone, all lower than they did in last year’s report. Last year’s maximum weighted average, measured in Lawrence County, was 1.7 days (a C), the area’s previous best.  The area’s ranking improved to 119th most polluted in the country from 93rd 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 Charleston-Huntington-Ashland metro area “State of the Air” 2021 found that year-round particle pollution levels in the Charleston metro area improved for the 12th straight year, reaching its best ever average annual level and meeting the standard for this pollutant. Kanawha County remained the county with the highest annual particle pollution average in the metro area, improving on its previous best-ever average in last year’s report at levels easily meeting the national air quality standard.  

The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous, even lethal. For the fourth year in a row, the metro area posted an average of 0.3 days for the short-term measure of particle pollution (a B grade). With the improvement of Carter County, KY and Scioto County, OH to list among the nation’s cleanest counties with zero days high in short-term particle pollution (an A grade), Lawrence County, OH remained as the only monitored county in the metro area without an A grade. 

“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 Charleston metro area, air pollution placed the health of more than three-quarters of a 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 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.  


For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
[email protected]

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