The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of the Air” report found that some Georgia cities earned poorer grades for the nation’s most widespread air pollutants while others, including Savannah and Hinesville, made the cleanest cities list for ozone pollution.
Compared to the 2017 report, many Georgia cities experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. Atlanta, Athens, Sandy Springs, Clarke County, Macon, Bainbridge and Warner Robbins experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone.
However, Brunswick, Savannah, Hinesville and Statesboro reported zero unhealthy ozone days and were placed on the cleanest cities list for ozone pollution.
Cities and metro areas ranking in the top 70 in the nation for most polluted for short-term particle pollution experienced more unhealthy air days included the Macon-Warner Robbins metro (56th), Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Athens-Clarke County metro (65th) and Columbus (68th).
This is in spite of a trend seen across the nation of lower particle pollution levels. Atlanta moved back on to two of the most polluted cities’ lists ranking 22nd most polluted for year-round particle pollution although it is at a lower level from last year’s report. Atlanta is also tied 23rd on the list for ozone pollution.
“The 2018 ‘State of the Air’ report reveals that unhealthful levels of pollution put our citizens at risk,” said June Deen, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Health Promotions of the American Lung Association in Georgia. “Ozone pollution and particle pollution are two of the most widespread and dangerous air pollutants. Breathing these pollutants can cause asthma attacks, respiratory and cardiovascular harm, and even early death. Breathing particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.
“Despite the recent increase in ozone pollution, the “State of the Air” 2018 report shows that the Clean Air Act has worked to clean up much of the dangerous air pollution across the nation for decades. The air is cleaner, but not clean enough to protect people’s health from harm. And climate change will continue to make both ozone pollution and particle pollution harder to clean up.”
Across the nation, the report found continued improvement in air quality, but still, more than four in 10 Americans – 133.9 million – live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution, where their health is at risk.
The trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2014-2016, reflect the ongoing challenges to reduce each pollutant in the changing political and outdoor climate.
“We can and should do more to protect the air we breathe and save lives,” Deen said. “The Lung Association in Georgia calls on our members of Congress to defend the Clean Air Act, currently under threat from those who want to weaken this effective public health law.
“We also call on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement and enforce the law instead of trying to roll back major safeguards like the Clean Power Plan and cleaner cars, both steps that help us fight climate change and reduce air pollution.”
Each year the “State of the Air” provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution, also known as smog, and particle pollution, also called soot.
The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution.
Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.
Particle Pollution in Georgia
The 2018 report also found year-round particle pollution levels slightly lower than the 2017 report.
Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution. Atlanta, Athens, Sandy Springs, Macon and Warner Robbins saw a reduction in year-round particle pollution levels. Macon and Warner Robbins reported its best-ever levels in this year’s report.
“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal,” said Deen.
“Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines.”
“State of the Air” 2018 also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The report found that three of Georgia’s larger metropolitan areas had more days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels in 2014-2016.
While the report examined data from 2014-2016, this 19th annual report provides online information on air pollution trends back to the first report covering 1996-1998.
Learn more about city rankings, as well as air quality across Georgia and the nation, in the 2018 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota.