American Lung Association State of the Air 2021 Report Find Nevada’s Air Quality Remains Unhealthy For Too Many

Clark County ranks 17th for most polluted places to live for both ozone and particle pollution.

This year’s American Lung Association “State of the Air” report finds that Nevada’s air quality rankings are among the unhealthiest for the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. The Las Vegas and Reno metropolitan areas are listed on the top 25 cities most polluted by short-term particles. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“Despite some progress to clean up air pollution, more must be done to achieve healthy air,” said Melissa Ramos, Manager of Clean Air Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Nevada. “Transportation emissions, especially older and more polluting vehicles, pose the greatest threat to our health. Nevada can and should reduce smog pollution by closing the Classic Car loophole while implementing Stronger Clean Car standards. Investments in zero-emission transportation and renewable energy policies will ensure a healthier and sustainable future.” 

Ozone Pollution in Las Vegas Metropolitan Area
Compared to the 2020 report, Las Vegas experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report, but still ranks 12th for most polluted cities. Carson City remained stagnant with the same number of ozone days as 2019. Both Clark County and Washoe County had less days of high ozone, but still received an “F” grade – the same grade as last year.  In the “State of the Air” 2021, the three most populated counties each earned an “F” grade – again echoing last year’s report grades.

Particle Pollution in Reno Metropolitan Area
“State of the Air” 2021 found that counties across the state met the standard for a passing grade in year-round particle pollution. The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. While the Las Vegas metropolitan area had fewer days of spikes in particulate matter, it retained its 25th highest polluted position from 2020. The Reno metropolitan area also saw a slight decrease in unhealthy short-term particle pollutants, but now ranks 21st compared to 23rd from last year. Despite minor improvements in short-term particle days, the 2021 report does not include the data for the extreme wildfires that affected different counties across the state in 2020. 

The “State of the Air 2021” report finds that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. In Nevada, pollution placed the health of nearly 3 million residents in peril, including those more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, including 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 states that climate change has made air quality worse and harder to clean up.

“While nearly every county in Nevada is faced with the impacts of ozone and particle pollution, the health burdens associated with unhealthy air are felt most heavily on children, older adults, and people of color,” said Shelley Berkley, CEO and Senior Provost for Touro University and Nevada Leadership Board Member for the American Lung Association. “All people are entitled to clean air, and we must prioritize equitable policies that will support clean up and investments in marginalized communities.”

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. Further, particle pollution has been found to be a lung cancer.

Learn more about “State of the Air” at Lung.org/sota and sign the petition to urge the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice.

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