(WFXR) — A new report from the American Lung Association shows several Virginia cities — including Roanoke — are the country’s cleanest places to live when it comes to their air quality, but it also found that more than 40% of Americans are living in places with failing grades for unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone.
According to the American Lung Association’s report — which was released on Thursday, April 21 — Roanoke, Charlottesville, the Harrisonburg-Staunton area, and the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area all rank among the 10 cleanest cities in the country for both particle pollution and ozone air pollution.
Meanwhile, the Blacksburg-Christiansburg area was ranked among America’s cleanest “cities” for ozone air pollution while Lynchburg made it on the list for cleanest cities for particle pollution.
However, officials say that the 23rd annual “State of the Air” report reveals that nearly nine million more people were impacted by particle pollution — which can be deadly — than in last year’s report. In addition, the report shows more days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality than ever before in the report’s two-decade history.
The report also shows that almost all of the most polluted places to live are in the western part of the country — especially California — where wildfires have become more common in recent years.
The Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of short-term spikes in particle pollution (also known as soot), annual particle pollution and ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog) over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2018-2020.
“‘State of the Air 2022’ shows that an unacceptable number of Americans are still living in areas with poor air quality that could impact their health,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “More than 137 million Americans live in counties that had unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone. In addition, 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 report continues to show long-term improvement in the nation’s air quality thanks to decades of work to reduce emissions. However, this has been offset in part by the negative impacts of hotter, drier conditions caused by climate change. Wildfires in the western U.S. were responsible for a sharp rise in particle pollution spikes in several states. Overall, the report finds that 2.1 million more Americans live in counties with unhealthy air compared to last year’s report, and exposure to deadly particle pollution has gotten worse.
For the first time, the Lung Association included Puerto Rico air pollution data, and listed pregnant people as a group at higher risk for harms associated with poor air quality.Statement released on April 21, 2022 by the American Lung Association
You can read the American Lung Association’s entire 2022 “State of the Air” report below.