American Lung Association Report: Burlington, Vermont Drops off Cleanest Cities List for Particle Pollution as 1 in 3 Nationwide are Exposed to Unhealthy Air

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in Vermont and across the nation
Burlington, Vermont, which has regularly made the cleanest cities lists for both ozone pollution and particle pollution, experienced a worsened level of particle pollution from 2019-2021, 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 Burlington and across the nation, we are seeing ozone pollution improving, thanks in big part to the success of the Clean Air Act. Unfortunately, here in Vermont we did see an increase of both year round and short term particle pollution – which serves as an important reminder that there is more work to do,” said Trevor Summerfield, Director of Advocacy for the Lung Association in Vermont. “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. That’s why we are calling on lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to take action to ensure that everyone has 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 a failing grade for all three measures. 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Burlington
Compared to the 2022 report, Burlington did not experience any notable change in high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” continued to rank the city on its cleanest cities list for ozone pollution, while Chittenden County – the only county in the metro area with an ozone monitor – maintained its A grade for the pollutant. 

Particle Pollution in Burlington
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Burlington’s short-term particle pollution worsened in this year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy days. The area had been ranked on the cleanest cities list for short term particle pollution, but the increase in unhealthy days cause it to fall from 142 most polluted city to 118th most polluted.  Chittenden County saw its grade fall from an A last year, to a B this year.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Burlington were slightly higher than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 171 most polluted for year-round particle pollution, 1 spot worse than the ranking of 172 last year.  Burlington also fell off the cleanest cities list for this measure of air pollution. 

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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