Maine’s air quality is experiencing mixed results since last year’s report, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report.
Bangor remains one of only seven cities in the nation that ranks on the cleanest cities lists for all three measures of pollution and is celebrating its sixth consecutive year as one of the cleanest cities for ozone pollution.
Alternatively, the Portland metro area recorded slightly more unhealthy days for ozone, and went from a ranking of 100th most polluted, down to 65th most polluted for ozone in this year’s report. Nationally, the report found that nearly 120 million people, or more than one in three in the U.S., live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.
The Portland metro area recorded slightly more unhealthy days for ozone…
The Lung Association’s 24th annual “State of the Air” report grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution, annual particle pollution, and short-term spikes in particle pollution over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2019-2021.
“As we can see from this year’s report data, there is much work to be done to improve our air quality,” said Lance Boucher, of the Lung Association.
“Even one poor air quality day is one too many for our residents at highest risk, such as children, older adults, pregnant people, and those living with chronic disease. That’s why we are calling on Gov. Mills and the legislature to continue moving forward on policies to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe,” Boucher said.
The Lung Association wants the state to finalize the Advanced Clean Cars II standard, continue to strengthen electric vehicle infrastructure, and push forward on efforts increase clean energy.
Nationally, the report found that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act. However, more work remains to fully clean up harmful pollution, and short-term particle pollution continues to get worse.
In addition, some communities bear a greater burden of air pollution. Out of the nearly 120 million people who live in areas with unhealthy air quality, a disproportionate number—more than 64 million (54%)—are people of color.
In fact, people of color were 64% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one measure, and 3.7 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three measures.
Compared to the 2022 report, Bangor continued to experience zero unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked Bangor as one of the cleanest cities for ozone pollution for the sixth year in a row. Penobscot County received a “A” grade for ozone pollution.
Compared to the 2022 report, Portland experienced slightly more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked Portland 65th most polluted for ozone in this year’s report, as opposed to its ranking of 100th in last year’s report. Both Cumberland and York Counties received “C” grades for ozone pollution.
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Bangor’s short-term particle pollution remained at zero unhealthy days in this year’s report, which means the city earned its title as one of the cleanest cities for particle pollution for the 14th consecutive year.
The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in Bangor were slightly lower than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 5th best for year-round particle pollution.
Portland continued to rank as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution, with zero unhealthy days. For the sixth consecutive time, and for the ninth time in total, both Androscoggin and Cumberland Counties, posted zero unhealthy days (A grades) for this pollutant measure.
Year-round particle pollution levels in Portland were slightly lower than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 164 most polluted for year-round particle pollution, better than the ranking of 133 last year.
The American Lung Association is calling on President Biden to urgently move forward on several measures to clean up air pollution nationwide, including new pollution limits on ozone and particle pollution and new measures to clean up power plants and vehicles. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA.