Philadelphia region falls in air quality rankings

    While many metro areas around the country have steadily improved air quality, the American Lung Association says its rating for the Philadelphia region has slumped.

    The new report is the American Lung Association’s interpretation of soot and smog measurements reported to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.


    There’s both promising and disappointing news, said Kevin Stewart, the association’s director of environmental health. His group keeps close tabs on the 13-county Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland metro area.

    “This report marks the first time that any county in that four-state metro area earned an ‘A’ for daily particle pollution, so Gloucester County in New Jersey had basically zero bad air days,” Stewart said.

    Fine-particle pollution is the technical term for soot. The annual ranking for the entire Philadelphia region slid precipitously among the nearly 200 metro regions on the list.

    “From 24th worst in last year’s report — which isn’t a particular nice place to be. This year,  that changed to 10th worst,” Stewart said.

    He said downwind regions such as Philadelphia fight their own battles to clean the air and are affected by power plants and pollution sources miles away.

    When the association considered ozone or smog, most counties across the region earned “F’s” — but Stewart said they were better “F’s.”

    “Just like in school, you can fail a test by just a couple points, or you can fail a test really badly, you can bomb it. We’re not bombing the test as much any more, is one way to look at the ozone levels,” he said.

    Ozone is sometimes called smog, a colloquial term for that soup of brown haze that hangs over some cities.

    Because of the lag times in reporting and processing, the 2012 State of the Air report reflects measurements taken from 2008 to 2010.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal