State of the Air 2017 Report Finds Louisiana's Air Quality Earns Mixed Grades

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Despite continued improvement in U.S. air quality, many remain at risk from health effects of unhealthy air according to new report from the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association’s 2017 “State of the Air” report found Louisiana has earned overall mixed grades for the three most common forms of hazardous air pollution.

Many Louisiana cities had fewer bad air days from ozone and particle pollution since the annual report began. Louisiana, like most Southeast states show strong evidence of the progress made on air quality thanks to the Clean Air Act. Some of the biggest progress came from cleaning up major sources, especially power plants, and retiring old, dirty diesel engines.

In fact Baton Rouge ranked as the 22nd most polluted city in the nation for ozone. Compared to the previous report, Baton Rouge has seen an increase in ozone slightly. This is in spite of a trend seen across the nation of lower ozone pollution levels. 

According to the 2017 ‘State of the Air,’ people in the Baton Rouge area are at risk of unhealthy levels of ozone and particle pollution, putting them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, worsened COPD symptoms and cardiovascular harm,” said Ashley Lyerly, Regional Director of Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Louisiana. “The report found continued improvement in air quality across the country, but 40 percent of Americans still live with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution placing their health at risk.”

The most notable national findings of the 18th annual report were lower overall ozone levels and lower year-round particle levels, offset by a continued trend of extreme short-term spikes in particle pollution, often related to wildfires or droughts. The report finds that the health of 43 million people across the country are at risk from these dangerous spikes in particle pollution. 

Nationwide, ozone pollution has decreased, thanks to the Clean Air Act’s success at cleaning up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles. However, research shows that climate change causes warmer temperatures, which makes ozone harder to clean up,” said Lyerly. 

Each year the “State of the Air” reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution (smog) and particle pollution (soot). 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. But the trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2013-2015, are strikingly different for these pollutants, nationwide, and in Louisiana.

Learn more about Baton Rouge’s rankings, as well as air quality across Louisiana and the nation in the 2017 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota.

Trend Charts and rankings for metropolitan areas, county grades are available at Lung.org/sota.

Contributed Report