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New Report: Charleston-Huntington-Ashland Metro Area Air Quality Equals or Improves to Best-ever for All Three Pollutant Measures; Residents Exposed to Less Unhealthy Air Pollution

American Lung Association “State of the Air” Report reveals that residents faced zero days of poor air quality for fine particle pollution; Cabell County earns first “A” for ozone smog.

CHARLESTON, WV– ( April 21, 2022) –The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that the 16-county Charleston-Huntington-Ashland, WV-OH-KY metro area posted its best-ever results for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. The metro area again improved to a new best-ever value for the year-round measure of fine particles and returned to being one of the cleanest in the country for the daily measure, with zero days of unhealthy levels for this pollutant.  The metro area also matched last year’s lowest-ever number of days with unhealthy amounts of ozone smog.

The “State of the Air” report is the Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” that tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog), annual particle pollution (also known as soot), and short-term spikes in particle pollution, over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2018-2020. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“The levels of ozone seen in Charleston-Huntington-Ashland metro area are good, but they can occasionally harm the health of all of our residents, but particularly at risk are children, older adults, pregnant people and those living with chronic disease. 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. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer,” said Molly Pisciottano, Director of Advocacy, for the Lung Association. “Fortunately, Cabell County did see an improvement in the levels of ozone, and earned its first ‘A’ grade.”

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Charleston-Huntington-Ashland, WV-OH-KY Metro Area

Compared to the 2021 report, the metro area’s worst county’s mark remained unchanged for the number of unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked the Charleston-Huntington-Ashland metro area the 117th most polluted city for ozone pollution, comparable to its ranking of 119th worst in last year’s report. Lawrence County, Ohio was sole worst county in the metro area and received a “B” grade for ozone pollution.  Both Cabell and Kanawha Counties slightly improved.

Particle Pollution in Charleston-Huntington-Ashland, WV-OH-KY Metro Area

The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. After four years with “B’ grades, the metro area’s short-term particle pollution returned to an “A” grade in this year’s report, which means there were zero unhealthy days for this pollutant in all six monitored counties. The area therefore returns to the list of cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution.

Overall, the 2022 “State of the Air” also found that year-round particle pollution levels in the Charleston-Huntington-Ashland metro area were slightly better than in last year’s report. Kanawha County improved the most, but Lawrence County got worst. The area was ranked 137th most polluted for year-round particle pollution better than the ranking of 115th last year.

The report found that nationwide, nearly 9 million more people were impacted by deadly particle pollution than reported last year. It also shows more days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality than ever before in the two-decade history of this report. Overall, more than 137 million Americans live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. 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 addition of 2020 data to the 2022 “State of the Air” report gives a first look at air quality trends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the shutdowns in early 2020, there was no obvious improvement.

The American Lung Association is calling 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. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA.