American Lung Association Report: Hampton Roads Ranked Among Nation’s Cleanest for Ozone Smog and Daily Measure of Particle Pollution; Slightly Worse for Year-Round Particles

1 in 3 Nationwide Exposed to Unhealthy Air
The Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC metro area’s air quality for ozone smog and 24-hour spikes in fine particle pollution continued among the cleanest in the country, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was released today. Nevertheless, the two-state metro area (comprising 11 counties and 11 independent cities) worsened slightly for its year-round particle pollution since last year’s report, but enough to place Hampton Roads off the list of cleanest 25 cities for this measure. 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 for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: 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 Hampton Roads and across the nation, we are seeing ozone pollution improving, thanks in big part to the success of the Clean Air Act. But there is more work to do,” said Aleks Casper, Director of Advocacy, VA, MD, DC, DE 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.”

“The American Lung Association believes that Virginia must continue to enact policies to cut all harmful pollutants and ultimately protect the health and well-being of Virginians, this includes policies that would help Virginia’s transition to zero emission vehicles through continued participation in Advanced Clean Car Standards,” said Casper.
 
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 Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC Metro Area
For the third straight year, the Virginia Beach-Norfolk metro area experienced zero unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. Hampton Roads continues to place among the nation’s cleanest cities for ozone smog as its two jurisdictions with grades (Hampton City and Suffolk City) again earned “A” grades for ozone pollution.

Particle Pollution in Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC Metro Area
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. For the eighth consecutive year, the Virginia Beach-Norfolk metro area posted zero unhealthy days high in particle pollution. Hampton Roads continues to place among the nation’s cleanest cities for fine particle pollution as all three of its jurisdictions with grades (Hampton City, Norfolk City, and Virginia Beach City) again earned “A” grades for this measure.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in the metro area departed slightly from their long-term trend of general improvement and were slightly worse in the current report. Norfolk City and Virginia Beach City both posted the same higher average value than in last year’s report. The metro area was ranked 173rd most polluted (tied for 27th best) for year-round particle pollution, compared to its ranking of 172nd worst (25th best) in last year’s report. This small difference was the only thing that kept Hampton Roads from being one of the few metro areas in the country ranked among the cleanest for all three measures, as it had achieved in last year’s report.

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.
For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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