Philly gets poor grade on air quality in new report

The American Lung Association’s findings for the 16-county Philadelphia area give the region a failing grade for a high number of ozone days.

Looking out at the Philadelphia skyline from the Allegheny SEPTA station

File photo: Looking out at the Philadelphia skyline from the Allegheny SEPTA station in Kensington. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The American Lung Association didn’t have much positive to report in its evaluation of air quality in the 16-county Philadelphia region.

The 24th annual State of the Air report did find “the new best-ever marks for ozone and long-term measures of fine particle pollution,” said ALA’s chief mission officer Deborah Brown.

But on the whole, the results were not so good.

“The number of unhealthy days for ozone smog continues to earn an ‘F’ grade, and the 24-hour measure of particle pollution in the area earned a ‘D’ grade with the number of unhealthy days remaining unchanged in this year’s report when compared to last year,” Brown said.

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Even for those with healthy lungs, ground level ozone and particle pollution can be dangerous. “Breathing these pollutants in can cause asthma attacks, respiratory and cardiovascular harm, including heart attacks and stroke and even early death,” she said.

Despite its shortcomings, the region isn’t the worst area in the country.

“When you look at ozone, for example, we rank 28th most polluted. Last year we were 29th. So we did improve,” Brown said. “If you look at the Philadelphia metro area for the short term particle pollution, we ranked 55th last year. [This year], we tied for 44th. So we have a better ranking this year. And then if you look at year round particle pollution, we ranked this year 46th most polluted and last year we were tied for 18. So that is significantly better.”

As for individual counties, Camden County surpassed Delaware County as the most polluted county in the area for particulate matter in the latest report.

Brown said the main takeaway from the report is that everyone, especially those who are pregnant, have asthma, or other lung diseases, needs to monitor air quality on a daily basis. If it’s a poor air quality day, she said try not to exercise outside, roll up your car windows, and put air conditioners on to recirculate.

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