‘State of the Air’ Report Reveals Des Moines One of the Cleanest Cities for Ozone Pollution

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in Des Moines and across the nation
Des Moines was named one of the top best cities in the nation for ozone pollution, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was 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.

“Here in Des Moines and across the nation, we are seeing ozone pollution improving, thanks in big part to the success of the Clean Air Act and Iowa’s clean energy generation. But there is more work to do,” said Kristina Hamilton, Advocacy Director 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. Despite Iowa’s leadership in clean energy, there needs to be a commitment to transition away from fossil fuels so that Iowans have cleaner 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 Des Moines
Compared to the 2022 report, Des Moines experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report and is listed among the Cleanest Cities in America for ozone. “State of the Air” ranked Des Moines as the 148th most polluted city for ozone pollution, which is better compared to its ranking of 117th  in last year’s report. Polk County improved from a “B” in last year’s report and received a “A” grade for ozone pollution with no unhealthy ozone days reported.

Particle Pollution in Des Moines
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Des Moines’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. Polk County received an “C” grade for short-term particle pollution. Coal plants in Iowa are a major producer of particle pollution and western wildfires also added to local particle burdens.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Des Moines were slightly higher than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 139th most polluted for year-round particle pollution, better than the ranking of 137 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 Lung.org/SOTA.

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For more information, contact:

Janye Killelea
[email protected]

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