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Lung Association Report: Charleston Gets Mixed Grades for Air Quality

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This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that Charleston had mixed grades for air pollution. The area improved for year-round particle pollution but had an additional unhealthy day reported with ozone pollution. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“Ozone can harm the health of all residents, but particularly at risk are children, older adults and people living with lung disease,” said June Deen, the director of advocacy for the Lung Association. “Fortunately, the area was ranked as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution, which means that there were no unhealthy days for this common pollutant.”

The Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of particle pollution (also known as soot) and ozone (smog) over a three-year period – this year’s report covers 2017-2019.

Ozone Pollution in Charleston

Compared to the 2020 report, Charleston experienced an additional unhealthy day of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” found that after being listed as one of the cleanest cities for ozone pollution for four years with no unhealthy air quality days, Charleston had a weighted average of 0.7 air quality days during the years 2017-2019. The area received a “B” grade for their ozone pollution and was ranked 119th most polluted.

Particle Pollution in Charleston

The “State of the Air” report found that year-round particle pollution levels in Charleston were lower than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 157th most polluted for year-round particle pollution (improved from 150th worst last year). The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Up from a “C” in the 2019 report to an “A” in the current SOTA report, Charleston was ranked as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution, which means that there were no unhealthy air quality days for particle pollution.

The “State of the Air” report found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. In Charleston, ozone pollution placed residents at risk, including those who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as older adults, children and people with a lung disease. The report also shows that nationwide, people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. The report also finds that climate change made air quality worse and harder to clean up. The three years covered by the report were among the six warmest in global history.

The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: average annual levels and short-term spikes. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular damage and are linked to developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.

Learn more about “State of the Air” at Lung.org/sota and sign the petition for the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice. Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact Jill Dale at Jill.Dale@Lung.org or at 312-940-7001.

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