Nearly 18.8 million people live in the 17 counties where year-round particle pollution levels do not meet the national air quality standard, and that receive a failing grade in “State of the Air” 2023. This is 1.5 million fewer people living in counties with unhealthy levels of year-round particle pollution compared to last year’s report, continuing a slight downward trend over the past four years.
By its nature, the year-round measure of average particle pollution is not as volatile as the daily measure. Changes over time may look smaller, but because they represent recurring exposures over many days and weeks, seemingly minor differences can have a big impact on public health. The 25 most polluted cities for year-round particle pollution continued the worsening trend of recent years, but only slightly, by an average of less than 0.1 micrograms per cubic meter (from 12.2 to 12.3 µg/m3).
Fourteen cities suffered worse year-round levels during 2019-2021 than in last year’s report, with two reporting their worst ever: Sacramento, California and Yakima, Washington for its second consecutive year. In contrast, nine of the 25 most polluted cities had lower year-round levels this year. Although none of the cities with improved levels achieved their best ever in “State of the Air” 2023, Fresno and San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California did post their second-best results.
New on the worst 25 list this year were Birmingham, Alabama; Louisville, Kentucky; and Laredo, Texas. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Redding-Red Bluff, California; Shreveport, Louisiana; and St. Louis, Missouri all improved enough to leave the list.
When Rev. Jenny Wynn wakes up in the morning, she checks two things – the weather and the air quality. As someone with asthma, high air pollution days force her to limit the time she spends outdoors.
Wynn says she often has to consider whether eating a meal outside or running errands on a day with poor air quality might trigger an asthma attack.
“In Phoenix, it seems there are more days than not with bad air quality,” said Wynn, Senior Minister at First Christian Church in Scottsdale, Arizona.
To help improve air quality in the community over the long term, she would like to see greater investments in public transportation and green-energy vehicles.
“As a preacher,” Wynn says, “I’m always preaching to people that when you’re voting or making decisions, you shouldn’t be doing it for your immediate future but thinking generationally, thinking 50+ years out.”
Rev. Jenny Wynn
First Christian Church Scottsdale