The American Lung Association released its annual “State of The Air” report this week, and once again, it has ranked Phoenix as one of the most polluted cities in the U.S.
The report, which tracks our exposure to unhealthy and potentially deadly pollutants, shows Phoenix ranked in the top ten for three pollutant categories: ozone, short-term particle pollution, and year-round particle pollution.
JoAnna Strother, the Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association of Arizona, says that Phoenix’s location and booming population are some of the factors involved.
“We actually live in a perfect place that has a perfect recipe for ozone. When you mix the volatile organic compounds with sunlight, hotter temperatures, and more vehicle emissions, you’ll see more ozone,” Strother stated.
In fact, the vast majority of American cities with the worst air pollution in any category within the report has been in the West. Our changing and warming climate plays a big role in this trend.
“The past five years have been some of the warmest years on record globally, so those extreme temperatures, mixing with droughts, wildfires, certainly add to increased particle pollution,” Strother says.
The report also highlights that these pollutants can harm our overall health, and not just those with compromised immune systems.
Strother tells us that people who are of lower socio-economic status tend to be impacted by air quality, since they tend to live closer to highways where we see higher vehicle emissions.
Over the past few months, however, air quality has improved significantly with more people staying at home and driving less due to COVID-19. Although this may be temporary, it’s a glimpse of what it could be like if more people committed to cleaner fuels and working from home.
Click here to see where your county ranked on the State of the Air list.