How to York County air quality is she compares to that of our neighbors?
York County scored high in some areas of air quality, but its rankings slipped in another key area as the American Lung Association released its annual State of the Lung Report on Thursday. ‘air.
York County remained the worst-performing county in a six-county metropolitan area that includes Harrisburg and Lebanon. The metro area was ranked the 44th most polluted in the nation for year-round particle pollution, worse than its 56th-worst ranking last year.
Unfortunately, the higher you are on the list, the more you wear badly.
“York County was the worst county in the metropolitan area for the annual average level of particle pollution. It is the quality of the York County air that led to this ranking for level all year “said Kevin Stewart, director of environmental health for ALA. “York County gets a passing grade, it’s still better than the EPA standard for the annual average level of particle pollution. Of all the counties of the metropolitan area, York posted the worst average of fine particles. “
The six counties in the metropolitan area are York, Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon and Perry.
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The State of the Air Report is the Lung Association’s annual air quality report map that tracks Americans exposure and qualities to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog), annual particulate pollution (also known as soot) and short-term spikes in particulate pollution, over a three-year period. The report this year covers 2018-2020.
Kelly Flanigan, associate of global warming solutions at PennEnvironment, said the only way to improve air quality is to combat the burning of fossil fuels like gasoline, diesel, methane and coal.
“Not only do these forms of energy directly contribute to air pollution, they also add to the growing threat of climate change, which makes the air quality worse. To make dirty air day a thing of the past, we must strengthen the existing air quality protections and the transition to electric cars, renewable energy, and buildings zero emission “, said Flanigan. “Our future really can be better and healthier if we clean our air. Zero pollution of all aspects of our lives will protect our lungs and our environment at the same time. »
The problem is cumulative, Stewart said.
“Although York didn’t have many high days — in fact, it didn’t have any individual high days — it had the worst year-round average for fine particulate matter,” Stewart said, “In this metropolitan area , this is a different and unusual circumstance where one of the best for daily measurement is the worst for year-round measurement.”
In terms of fine particle pollution per day, York County received an A grade, while Dauphin and Cumberland counties each received D grades in this area. Stewart said it’s possible for a county whose ranking has dropped in one area to achieve a high-level rating in another area.
“It gives you an idea of how there can be a difference in a metro area from one county to another,” he said.
Pollution from fine particles is a mixture of solid particles and even microscopic liquid floating in the atmosphere and come from many different things, said Stewart. One of the main causes is any kind of incomplete combustion. The particles that enter the air because of agricultural production, construction or road construction can also contribute to pollution from small particles, he said.
The ranking of the Harrisburg-York-Lebanon metropolitan area remained poor for daily and year-round measurements of fine particulate pollution, but moderate for ozone smog. These are some of the types of air pollution the most harmful and widespread.
The metro area’s worst ranking was for daily peaks in fine particulate pollution, 43rd worst in the country out of 221 ranked metro areas.
York County got a B for ozone smog because it had a bad ozone smog day during the time the data was collected. The main contributors to ozone smog are the burning of fossil fuels and volatile organic compounds from unburned fuels or industrial solvents.
“The only way you get an A in our report is if there are zero bad air quality days reported,” Stewart said. “Because we know that a bad air day could be a bad air day too for someone who is in a risk-sensitive group. »
Those days of poor air quality, Stewart said, could be enough to cause a day of work to be missed or a child to be sent to the emergency room because they are in risk groups susceptible to poor air quality.
Flanigan said that even if pollution levels improve for a long time, one bad day can have a detrimental effect on health.
“Even a single day of breathing polluted air has negative consequences for our health. Research increasingly suggests that there is no safe level of air pollution for us to breathe,” Flanigan said.
“This means that by simply inhaling, Pennsylvanians are at risk for heart disease, respiratory distress, worsening mental health, cancer and more. Worse still, for those in our communities who may be especially vulnerable, such as children, pregnant women and the elderly, the impacts of air pollution can be particularly pronounced.”
Compared to the 2021 report, the Harrisburg-York-Lebanon metro area experienced the same small number of unhealthy high ozone days. “State of the Air” ranked the Harrisburg metro area as the 117th most polluted city in the nation for ozone pollution, which is comparable to its ranking of 119th worst in last year’s report.
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particulate pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Harrisburg-York-Lebanon Subway short-term particulate pollution worsened for a second straight year, meaning there were even more unhealthy days. Dauphin County passed Cumberland County for the worst performance for daily particulate pollution in the metro area with a weighted average of 2.5 days (a “D” grade) in this year’s report. The region is ranked 43rd worst for short-term particulate pollution, after occupying 42nd place last year.
“It is clear that York County data from 2018 to 2020 showed no air quality levels above the EPA standard for daily fine particulate measurement, while other locations have showed higher days, “said Stewart. “It’s just because the air quality in the region is, for example, based on all the industries that are operating, whatever traffic is contributing to it, agriculture is contributing to it. That’s an example of something we recognize.
“To understand some realities here, something like the Brunner Island power station on the eastern border of your county, it won’t be upwind of the York County monitor very often, and so it doesn’t contribute as much to the quality of the air in your county as it would be in Lancaster County, which is across the river.”
Climate change may also contribute to the deterioration of air quality. Stewart was warmer months contribute to the increase of ozone in the atmosphere. He also said that the increase in forest fires in the west, which is attributed to climate change, and the smoke from them has also led to a deterioration in air quality.
“All the gains we’ve made on the air quality – and we certainly recognize that there has been an improvement over time in general since we started doing this report in 2000 – are not always sure to continue in the future unless we continue to pay good attention to the causes and problems, “said Stewart.” We have seen situations where, although we had a great fall for ozone or fine particles, some things started to go up. “
Stewart said it could be worse in York County and the Harrisburg-York-Lebanon metropolitan area. He said at least 40% of the country’s population lives in areas that receive an F for at least one air pollutant.
You can see the full report on Lung.org/sota.
– Contact Anthony Maenza to [email protected] @atmaenza or on Twitter.