American Lung Association Report: Wisconsin’s Air Quality Mixed; 1 in 3 Nationwide Exposed to Unhealthy Air

American Lung Association 2023 “State of the Air” report highlights air quality in Wisconsin and across the Nation
Wisconsin’s air quality has improved in some areas and gotten worse in others since last year’s report, 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 Wisconsin and across the Nation, we are seeing ozone pollution improving in many counties, thanks in big part to the success of the Clean Air Act. But there is more work to do,” said Molly Collins, 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. 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 failing grades for all three measures.
Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Wisconsin
Compared to the 2022 report, Wisconsin experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked the Milwaukee/Racine/Waukesha area of Wisconsin as the 31st most polluted area for ozone pollution, which is better compared to its ranking of 26th in last year’s report. Racine County is the most ozone-polluted county in the metro area and received a “F” grade for ozone pollution.
Particle Pollution in Wisconsin
The 2023 “State of the Air” report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Wisconsin’s short-term particle pollution got worse in this year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy air quality days. The Milwaukee/Racine/Waukesha area is ranked 118th worst for short-term particle pollution, and area was ranked 46th most polluted for year-round particle pollution, (worse than the ranking of 56th last year). Waukesha County, WI, was the most polluted county in the metro area for year-round levels.
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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Janye Killelea
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