Arizona Air Quality Still Failing American Lung Association State of the Air 2021 Report

Ozone levels increase, while particle pollution a mixed bag.

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that Arizona rankings were mixed for the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. The Phoenix metro area saw more days with unhealthy ozone levels, but fewer unhealthy days when it came to particulate matter. The Tucson-Nogales area saw a slight improvement on ozone but also saw more days of particle matter. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“Overall people in Arizona are impacted by unhealthy air - especially children, those over 65, people with COPD, lung cancer or cardiovascular disease and people of color,” said JoAnna Strother, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association. “Healthy people can also experience shortness of breath and coughing when air pollutants are high. As people spend more time outdoors, these pollution levels put them at increased risk for breathing difficulties – more must be done to protect Arizona’s public health.” 

Ozone Pollution in Arizona
Compared to the 2020 report, Phoenix metro area had more days with dangerous ozone levels, ranking Phoenix area the 5th most polluted city in the U.S. compared to 7th in last year’s report. Tucson-Nogales saw a slight improvement with fewer days of ozone and improved its ranking compared to last year’s report. 

Particle Pollution in Arizona
“State of the Air” 2021 found that year-round particle pollution levels in the Phoenix metro saw a slight improvement, while Tucson-Nogales experienced its best-ever annual average and improved its ranking to 74th most polluted region this year from 49th in last year’s report. The report also tracks short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The report found that the Phoenix metro saw fewer days of short-term spikes and improved its ranking, while Tucson-Nogales saw more days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels. Sierra Vista-Douglas lands on the cleanest cities list for short-term particles. 

“State of the Air” 2021 found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. In Arizona, these conditions regularly place residents at risk, including those who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as older adults, children and people with 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 and sign the petition urging the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice.

For more information, contact:

Arizona Media Contact

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