Hampton Roads One of Only Ten Metro Areas in United States Ranked Among the Cleanest for All Three Measures of Air Quality in Lung Association Report

American Lung Association “State of the Air” Report reveals that residents enjoyed better air quality for year-round fine particle pollution, and zero unhealthy days for ozone smog and fine particles.

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that the Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC metro area (comprising 11 counties and 11 independent cities) rankings were among the best in the nation for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. In addition to ranking among the cleanest for daily measures of fine particles and ozone smog, the metro area improved to tie for 25th best in the country for the long-term measure of fine particle pollution. 

The “State of the Air” report is the Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” that tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog), annual particle pollution (also known as soot), and short-term spikes in particle pollution, over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2018-2020. See the full report at Lung.org/sota. 

“The levels of ozone and particle pollution seen in much of the country can harm the health of many people, but particularly at risk are children, older adults, pregnant people and those living with chronic disease. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer,” said Aleks Casper, Director of Advocacy for the Lung Association. “Fortunately, the metro area did see an improvement in the levels of year-round particle pollution and continued to earn ‘A’ grades for the pollutants measured on a daily basis.” 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC Metro Area 

For the second 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 the 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 lethal. For the seventh 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 the three jurisdictions with grades (Hampton City, Norfolk City, and Virginia Beach City) again earned “A” grades for this measure. 

The 2022 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in the metro area, after a small increase in last year’s report, resumed their long-term trend of improvement and were slightly better in the current report. Norfolk City was joined this year by Virginia Beach City in posting the metro area’s new best- ever average value. The metro area was ranked 172nd most polluted (tied for 25th best for year-round particle pollution, better than the ranking of 163rd worst in last year’s report.  

The report found that nationwide, nearly 9 million more people were impacted by deadly particle pollution than reported last year. It also shows more days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality than ever before in the two-decade history of this report. Overall, more than 137 million Americans live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. Communities of color are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air. The report found that people of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant, and 3.6 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three pollutants. 

The addition of 2020 data to the 2022 “State of the Air” report gives a first look at air quality trends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the shutdowns in early 2020, there was no obvious improvement.  

The American Lung Association is calling on the Biden administration to strengthen the national limits on both short-term and year-round particulate matter air pollution. Stronger standards will educate the public about air pollution levels that threaten their health and drive the cleanup of polluting sources in communities across the country. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA. 

Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact Val Gleason at [email protected] or 717-971-1123.  

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
[email protected]

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