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June 15, 2019

5/4/2019 7:30:00 AM
Report: Northern Wisconsin's air quality, already good, improves for ozone

The American Lung Association's 2019 "State of the Air" report found air quality in central and northern Wisconsin earned perfect grades for the nation's most widespread air pollutants. The annual air quality "report card" tracks Americans' exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone and particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. The 20th annual report found the counties in northern and central Wisconsin enjoy near pristine air, earning them straight As in the report. All were monitored for ozone; all but one (Marathon County) is also monitored for particle pollution.

"Residents should be aware that while many Wisconsinites thankfully don't have to worry about their air quality, many others are still being exposed to air pollution. Potential sources include emissions from power plants and vehicles and, hotter weather as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk," Dona Wininsky of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin said in a press release announcing the State of the Air report results.

This year's report covers the most recent quality-assured data available collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2015-2017. Notably, those three years were the hottest recorded in global history.

Each year the "State of the Air" provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone and particle pollution. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes.

Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm, the release states.



Ozone Pollution

This report documents how warmer temperatures brought by climate change make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up, it continues.

This year's report showed that ozone levels increased in most cities nationwide, in large part due to the record-breaking global heat experienced in the three years tracked in the report.

"Another factor for parts of Wisconsin is the 'Chicago effect,' - pollution that drifts north from south of the border, negatively impacting the state's lakefront communities," Wininsky said, "In these counties it is critically important that people be aware of that pollution, so they can protect themselves. Ozone is unhealthy, regardless of the source."



Particle Pollution

The 2019 report also found year-round particle pollution levels slightly lower than the 2018 report, but that an increase in 24-hour particle pollution levels indicates higher spikes of limited duration.

Nationwide, the best progress in this year's report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution.

Many of these spikes can be directly linked to weather patterns like drought or to events like wildfires, which are increasing in frequency and intensity in many areas due to climate change and high emissions from wood-burning devices, the release states.

While the report examined data from 2015-2017, this 20th annual report online provides information on air pollution trends back to the first report.

To learn more about the region's county rankings, as well as air quality data from across Wisconsin and the nation, read the 2019 "State of the Air" report at Lung.org/sota.





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