Wildfires worsening air quality in Eugene and Springfield

Katie Ramirez
April 25, 2019

Metro Phoenix's air quality greatly deteriorated over the past year, according to a new study.

The Eugene-Springfield area is now the 38th most polluted area in the US for annual particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association's "State of the Air" 2019 report.

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 health organization says it analyzed data from official air-quality monitors across the country for its 20th annual "State of the Air" report.

"We were ranked eighth past year, so we did have more days where the air quality was bad", said JoAnna Strother, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association of Arizona.

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That means that more than 141 million people in the USA now breathe air that is contaminated with high levels of ozone and soot, day-in and day-out.

Eight city areas had recorded the highest number of days with unhealthy spikes in particle pollution since the American Lung Association started monitoring pollution this way: Fairbanks, Alaska; Missoula, Montana; Bismarck, North Dakota, Bend-Pineville, Oregon; Yakima and the Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d'Alene area in Washington; and Salinas and Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California. The American Lung Association says both forms contribute to asthma attacks, heart attacks and lung cancer.

She said the ozone is particularly risky for sensitive groups, like people with asthma or other lung diseases, and older adults.

Los Angeles continues to rank at the top of the list for worst ozone pollution, and other California cities - including Visalia, Bakersfield and the Fresno-Madera-Hanford region - top the lists for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution, partially due to droughts and wildfires in the state. Smoke during the fire season can often elevate ozone levels.

The findings add "to the evidence that a changing climate is making it harder to protect human health", according to the report. Particle pollution comes from coal- and natural gas-fired plants, cars, agriculture, unpaved roads and construction sites.

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