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Four AZ Counties Get F Grade on Air Quality Report

PHOTO: Climate change is among the factors contributing to severe air pollution that has earned four Arizona counties failing grades in an annual American Lung Association report tracking the nation's most polluted cities and counties. Photo credit: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
PHOTO: Climate change is among the factors contributing to severe air pollution that has earned four Arizona counties failing grades in an annual American Lung Association report tracking the nation's most polluted cities and counties. Photo credit: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
May 1, 2015

PHOENIX - Climate change is being called a major reason Gila, Maricopa, Pinal and Yuma counties all got failing grades in the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report released this week.

The report also ranks Phoenix 10th in the nation for having the worst ozone pollution, said Christian Stumpf, the association's regional director of public policy, adding that the warming of the planet is causing a lingering drought, which is causing more air pollution.

"Climate change is causing warmer weather, which impacts ozone," he said. "and it's also causing drier weather, which has an impact on particle pollution through longer and worse wildfire seasons and - pretty much - clean air."

Stumpf said the drought means there is less rain to wash away air pollutants, and severe wildfires also add particles to the air.

According to the report, 44 percent of Americans live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution. In Maricopa County alone, Stumpf said, there are upwards of 400,000 people with asthma who could suffer a serious health event because of poor air quality. He encouraged people to work on reducing air pollution.

"In Arizona," he said, "we would like to see everybody want to help the air pollution problem, and to do that everyone needs to pitch in and do things like don't drive if you don't need to, carpool if you can, turn off your engines when you're waiting to pick up your kids at school."

The State of the Air report again ranked Los Angeles as having the worst ozone pollution in the nation, whereas Bellingham, Wash., is rated the cleanest city.

The report is online at stateoftheair.org.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ