Ohio air quality gets mixed grades in ‘State of the Air 2018’ report

Cincinnati and Cleveland ranked among the 25 most polluted areas in the nation for year-round particle pollution, while counties in the Miami Valley earned grades from C to F for air quality affected by ozone in the American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2018" report.

The report, released Wednesday, shows mixed results for Ohio. Several areas in the state suffered more unhealthy days than in the 2017 report, according to lung association officials.

The report documents how warmer temperatures brought by climate change make ozone more likely to form. According to the 2018 report, ozone levels increased in most cities nationwide, in large part because of rising temperatures in 2016, the second hottest year on record in the U.S.

  • The nation's most polluted area by ozone? Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  • The Cleveland-Akron-Canton area tied for 10th.
  • The nation's most polluted area by year-round particle pollution? Fairbanks, Alaska.
  • Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville (Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana) tied for 18th.
  • The nation's most polluted area by short-term particle pollution?
  • No areas in Ohio showed up in the top 25.

Each year the “State of the Air” reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants -- ozone pollution and particle pollution. 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 be lethal.

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Ozone (smog) is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. When ozone is inhaled, it irritates the lungs, like a bad sunburn. It can cause immediate health problems and continue days later. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death.

Particle pollution levels can spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end (short-term) or remain at unhealthy levels on average every day (year-round). Particle pollution can penetrate deep into the lungs and even into the bloodstream, leading to premature deaths, asthma attacks and heart attacks, as well as lung cancer.

“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,” said Ken Fletcher, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio.

All Ohio counties with data, except Cuyahoga, received a passing grade on annual particle pollution.

According to the lung association, the data for the report comes from official monitors for the two most widespread types of pollution -- ozone and particle pollution.

The report grades counties, ranking cities and counties based on scores calculated by average number of unhealthy days (for ozone and for short-term particle pollution) and by annual averages (for year-round particle pollution).

Below are area counties with an ozone grade (first column) and particle pollution grade (second column):

Butler: F (no change from 2017)..... A (no change from 2017)

Clark:  F (no change from 2017)..... A (no change from 2017)

Greene:  C (no change from 2017)..... A (no change from 2017)

Hamilton: F (no change from 2017)..... B (no change from 2017)

Montgomery: D (Worsened from C in 2017)..... B (no change from 2017)

Preble: C (Worsened from B in 2017)..... A (no change from 2017)

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