Report: NM's ABQ, Eddy County Rank High for Poor Air Quality
Friday, April 22, 2022
A new study found high ozone levels have made the air quality in Albuquerque worse than ever reported.
For the past 23 years, the American Lung Association has kept track of air quality, noting air pollution contributes to respiratory diseases, including asthma and lung cancer.
JoAnna Strother, senior director of advocacy for the Lung Association, said Albuquerque and its surrounding area ranked 22nd among cities for the worst air pollution in terms of ozone from 2018 through 2020, up from 26th place in the last report.
"We did see slightly worse particles, ranking 88th for annual particles," Strother reported. "Also, Albuquerque falling off the 'Clean Cities' list for particles, now ranking 99th."
Particle pollution is a combination of airborne solids and liquids, so small they are often invisible and easily inhaled.
New Mexico has adopted stricter rules on oil and gas emissions in the past two years. Strother said those changes, combined with anticipated 'clean car' rules, could help reduce the state's air pollution levels.
Oil and gas production has boomed in New Mexico in recent years, and heavy fossil-fuel operations can contribute to air pollution. Strother pointed out Eddy County, five hours southeast of Albuquerque in the Permian Basin, as an example.
"And it's only one of two rural counties that actually topped the 25 list," Strother noted. "Most of them are these major metro counties. So, it shows that we have a big problem in some of these smaller communities that people might not think that they're breathing in air pollution."
In addition to emissions from oil and gas wells, the Lung Association said particulates from wildfires and higher temperatures due to climate change contribute to air pollution.
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