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Front Page - Friday, May 15, 2020

Report: Chattanooga air quality shows improvement

The American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air report placed Chattanooga 93rd in the nation for ozone pollution – its all-time best.

The Lung Association’s annual air quality report card tracks Americans’ exposure during a three-year period to the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants – ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot).

This year’s report covers the most recent data available, collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies from 2016-2018.

Ozone pollution

Compared to the 2019 report, Chattanooga experienced fewer high ozone days from 2016-2018, with an average of only 1.7 weighted days. This is an improvement over the city’s worst report of 63.3 weighted days from 1998-2000, as counted under the 2015 ozone pollution standard.

“Ozone pollution can harm healthy people, but is particularly dangerous for children, older adults and people with lung diseases like COPD or asthma,” says Dr. Aaron Milstone, pulmonologist at Williamson Medical Center in Franklin.

“Breathing ozone-polluted air can trigger asthma attacks in both adults and children with asthma, which can land them in the doctor’s office or emergency room. Ozone can also result in serious health effects such as cardiovascular damage and developmental and reproductive harm.”

This report documents that warmer temperatures brought by a changing climate are making ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up. Significantly more people nationally suffered unhealthy ozone pollution in the 2020 report than in the last three, the Lung Association reports.

Particle pollution

The State of the Air report also found that the Chattanooga area had its best report yet for year-round particle pollution, posting its lowest ever average for the 13th consecutive year.

“Year-round particle pollution levels had dropped in recent years thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines. However, the increase we’ve seen nationally in particle pollution in this year’s report is a troubling reminder that we must increase our efforts to reduce this dangerous pollution,” says Christine Hart, healthy air campaign manager at the American Lung Association in Tennessee.

“Particle pollution can lodge deep in the lungs and even enter the bloodstream. It can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes and cause lung cancer,” Milstone adds.

In tracking short-term spikes in particle pollution, the report found that Chattanooga’s metro area remained unchanged, having 2.2 weighted days of unhealthy levels of particle pollution.

Source: American Lung Association