Latest American Lung Association State of the Air Report Finds Washington Air Quality Remains Largely Unhealthy

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds Washington has four cities on the Top 25 most polluted for short-term particle pollution. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“Particle pollution remains the dominant air pollutant in our state,” said Carrie Nyssen, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association. “Wildfire smoke and wood stoves are two major contributors to particle pollution (PM 2.5). These particles are so small they easily penetrate deep into the lungs and even into our bloodstream, leading to premature deaths, heart attacks and asthma attacks. Children, older adults and people living with lung disease are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality. More must be done to protect our public health and clean our air,” Nyssen continued.

Ozone Pollution in Washington
King County received an F grade in this year’s report and recorded the same number of unhealthy ozone days as in last year’s report. Benton county also received an F grade. 

Particle Pollution in Washington
“State of the Air” 2021 found that short-term particle pollution levels landed four Washington cities in the top 25 for worst polluted in this category: (5) Yakima, (11) Spokane-Spokane Valley, (14) Seattle-Tacoma, and (23) Vancouver-Portland. Spokane and Yakima recorded the highest number of days of unhealthy particle pollution levels, largely due to smoke from wildfires. 

“Fire seasons are lasting longer and burning more acreage – while creating smoke that is harmful to our public health,” said Nyssen. “Exposure to this smoke has been linked to lung and heart diseases. It’s vital to keep working to implement policies to lessen exposure to wildfire smoke – and any air pollutant.”

The report also tracks year-round particle pollution. All counties in Washington with monitors received a passing grade in this pass/fail category.

The year’s report found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. 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 to urge the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice.

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