Phoenix ranks No. 5 for most-polluted air

Lifestyle | 26 Apr |

The American Lung Association has released its annual “State of the Air” report, and Phoenix ranked 5th worst in ozone pollution across the country, which is up from last year ranking of 7th.

This doesn’t come as a surprise, especially since extreme heat and sunlight play a major role in ozone production.

For 22 years, the American Lung Association has analyzed data from official air quality monitors to compile the State of the Air report.

READ ALSO: 4 tips for surviving seasonal allergies in Arizona

Highlights for Phoenix:

• Ranked No. 5 for high ozone days out of 229 metropolitan areas

• Ranked No. 13 for 24-hour particle pollution out of 216 metropolitan areas

• Ranked No. 8 for annual particle pollution out of 204 metropolitan areas

According to the report, if you live in Maricopa County, here are the grades the air you breathe received:

Ozone: F

Particle Pollution 24-hour: F

Particle Pollution Annual: Pass

The “State of the Air” 2021 report finds that despite some nationwide progress on cleaning up air pollution, more than 40% of Americans—over 135 million people—are living in places with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. The burden of living with unhealthy air is not shared equally. People of color are over three times more likely to be breathing the most polluted air than white people.

The “State of the Air” report looks at two of the most widespread and dangerous air pollutants, ozone and fine particulate matter. The air quality data used in the report is collected at official monitoring sites across the United States by the federal, state, local and tribal governments. The Lung Association calculates values reflecting the air pollution problem and assigns grades for ozone and daily and long-term measures of particle pollution. Those values are also used to rank cities (metropolitan areas) and counties. This year’s report presents data from 2017, 2018 and 2019, the most recent quality-assured nationwide air pollution data publicly available.

“State of the Air” 2021 is the 22nd edition of this annual report, which was first published in 2000. From the beginning, the findings in “State of the Air” have reflected the successes of the now-50-year-old Clean Air Act, as emissions from transportation, power plants and manufacturing have been reduced. In recent years, however, the findings of the report have added to the evidence that a changing climate is making it harder to protect human health.

The three years covered by “State of the Air” 2021 ranked among the six hottest years on record globally. High ozone days and spikes in particle pollution, related to extreme heat and wildfires, are putting millions more people at risk and adding challenges to the work states and cities are doing across the nation to clean up air pollution.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven home to the world the preciousness of healthy lungs.1 New research shows that exposure to elevated levels of air pollution is linked to worse health outcomes from COVID-19, including higher death rates. As the nation continues to respond to the pandemic, reducing air pollution is critical for respiratory health now and in the future. The Lung Association will continue to champion the Clean Air Act and push for clean air, health equity and environmental justice for all.

More than four in ten Americans (41.1%–more than 135 million Americans) are living in the 217 counties across the nation with monitors that are capturing unhealthy levels ozone or particle pollution. This is 14.8 million fewer people breathing unhealthy air compared to last year’s report, mostly from improved levels of ozone pollution. However, the threat of deadly particulate matter air pollution continues to worsen with each new edition of “State of the Air.” This year’s report finds an increase of close to 1.1 million people living in areas with unhealthy levels of short-term particle pollution compared to last year’s report.

Circle graphic with 3X overlayed.More than 4 in 10 Americans live in places with unhealthy levels of air pollution.

Close to 20.7 million people, or 6.3% of Americans, live in the 13 counties that failed all three measures. Of these 20.7 million people, 14 million are people of color. 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 over three times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three pollutants.

Los Angeles remains the city with the worst ozone pollution in the nation, as it has for all but one of the 22 years tracked by the “State of the Air” report. Fairbanks, Alaska earned the unfortunate distinction of being the metropolitan area with the worst short-term particle pollution for the first time. And Bakersfield, California returned to the most polluted slot for year-round particle pollution for the second year in a row.

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