Report: Pollution worsening, air quality declining across Massachusetts

BOSTON (WHDH) - A new report from the American Lung Association indicates pollution in Massachusetts is worsening and that air quality across the state is declining.

The 2019 “State of the Air” report found eight out of 12 reporting counties in the Bay State recorded more bad ozone days than in 2018.

The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly.

“Massachusetts residents should be aware that we’re breathing unhealthy air, driven by emissions from power plants and extreme heat as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk,” said Elizabeth Hamlin-Berninger, Director of Advocacy in Massachusetts for the American Lung Association.

The report also highlights that more than 4 in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air.

“We’re heading in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting public health,” Hamlin-Berninger added.

Each year the report provides findings on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution, also known as smog, and particle pollution, also called soot.

Compared to the 2018 report, Massachusetts counties did considerably worse, reporting more bad air days for ozone.

The counties of Barnstable, Bristol, Hampden, and Hampshire decreased one or more grades, earning an “F” in the 2019 report. Dukes, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester also lost grades, earning “Cs” and “Ds.”

Altogether, the counties recorded a total of 97 combined “orange” and “red” bad ozone days from 2015-2017, compared to 59 bad ozone days from 2014-2016.

The counties of Essex, Franklin, Middlesex, and Norfolk maintained their grades from last year, despite the overall trend of increased bad air days.

“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” Hamlin-Berninger said.

A silver lining in the report highlights a slight decrease in year-round particle pollution levels in all but 3 counties (Berkshire, Hampden, and Suffolk), while all counties reported levels in line with national standards and maintained passing grades.

“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires, and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes, and can even be lethal,” Hamlin-Berninger said.

For more on the report, click here.

(Copyright (c) 2020 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)