Chicago Ranked 17th Worst in Nation for Ozone Pollution; Report Reveals Nationwide Disparities for People of Color

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights the need to clean up air pollution in Chicago and across the nation
The American Lung Association found that several Chicago-area counties received failing grades for ozone pollution, according to the 2023 “State of the Air” report, released today. Nationally, the report found that nearly 120 million people, or more than one in three, in the U.S. live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

The Lung Association’s 24th annual “State of the Air” report grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution, annual particle pollution and short-term spikes in particle pollution over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2019-2021.

“As we can see from this year’s report data, there is much work to be done in Chicago to improve our air quality,” said Kristina Hamilton, Director of Advocacy for the Lung Association. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for our residents at highest risk, such as children, older adults, individuals who are pregnant and those living with chronic disease. Given transportation sources are a leading cause of air pollution, we are calling on Governor Pritzker to implement Clean Trucks rules to ensure that Illinoisans have clean air to breathe.”

Nationally, the report found that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act. However, more work remains to fully clean up harmful pollution, and short-term particle pollution continues to get worse. In addition, some communities bear a greater burden of air pollution. Out of the nearly 120 million people who live in areas with unhealthy air quality, a disproportionate number – more than 64 million (54%) – are people of color. In fact, people of color were 64% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one measure, and 3.7 times as likely to live in a county with failing grades for all three measures.

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Chicago
Compared to the 2022 report, Chicago experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked Chicago as the 17th most polluted city for ozone pollution, which is better compared to its ranking of 16th in last year’s report. Nearly all Chicago area counties received a F grade for ozone pollution, including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, and McHenry. Pollution from transportation sources like cars, buses and trucks is a large source of ozone-forming emissions and climate pollution in and around Chicago.

Particle Pollution in Chicago
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Chicago’s short-term particle pollution got worse in this year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy days. The area is ranked 77th worst for short-term particle pollution. Cook County received an C grade for short-term particle pollution.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Chicago were significantly lower than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 23 most polluted for year-round particle pollution, better than the ranking of 22 last year.

The American Lung Association is calling on President Biden to urgently move forward on several measures to clean up air pollution nationwide, including new pollution limits on ozone and particle pollution and new measures to clean up power plants and vehicles. See the full report results and sign the petition at

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For more information, contact:

Janye Killelea
[email protected]

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