St. Louis air quality score decreases

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The American Lung Association released its 2022 “State of the Air” report on April 20. The report found “mixed results” for St. Louis air quality, which saw a decrease in ozone pollution and an increase in short-term particle pollution. The report covered the period of 2018 to 2020.

The report is issued by The American Lung Association annually as a way of giving air quality a “report card.” The report details, tracks and grades the levels of unhealthy exposure Americans have to ground-level ozone air pollution, commonly known as “smog.” It also details the annual particle pollution, known commonly as “soot.”

“The levels of ozone and particle pollution seen in the St. Louis metro area can harm the health of all of our residents,” said Susannah Fuchs, director of health promotions for clean air at the American Lung Association.

Fuchs noted that children, pregnant people, the elderly and those living with chronic disease are the most at risk due to poor air quality.

“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,” Fuchs said. “Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.”

According to The American Lung Association, short-term spikes in particle pollution, as seen in St. Louis, can be “extremely dangerous and even lethal.” During the covered three-year period, St. Louis’ short-term particle pollution got “slightly worse” compared to the previous report. Previously, St. Louis was ranked 48th for short-term particle pollution but has fallen to 57th.

According to the report, nearly 137 million Americans live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Communities of color are also disproportionately impacted by unhealthy air, with people of color being 61% more likely to be exposed than their white counterparts. People of color were also found to be 3.6 times as likely to live in a county which has a “failing grade” for all three pollutants tracked by the report.

The report called 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,” the report says.

To see the full results of the report, visit www.lung.org/sota.

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Caleb Sprous
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