The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2013” report shows ozone quality has improved in Lawrence County.

The report also indicates that Pittsburgh has cut year-round particle pollution (soot) levels since last year in keeping with a national trend.

The Pittsburgh-New Castle metro area ranks as follows:

•Seventh in the nation for most polluted city by short-term particle pollution.

•Eighth in the nation for most polluted city by year-round particle pollution.

•24th in the nation for the most ozone-polluted city.

All are improved rankings over last year’s report. Overall, “State of the Air 2013” shows that the air quality in Pittsburgh continues a long-term trend toward healthier air.

Looking at air quality in 2009, 2010, and 2011, the Pittsburgh-New Castle metro area’s air pollution improvement shows up in several counties, in terms of short-term particle pollution, year-round particle pollution and ozone.

Particle pollution levels can spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end, short-term, or remain at unhealthy levels, on average, every day year-round.

Southwest Pennsylvania improved overall in terms of year-round particle pollution, according to the report, but in many cases, grades stayed the same or worsened due to a tighter standard.

“State of the Air 2013” also finds that ozone levels in these counties improved:

•Armstrong County from an “F” to a “C,”

•Beaver County from “F” to a “C,”

•Lawrence County from “C” to a “B,”

•Washington County from  “D” to a “C.”

Ozone (smog) is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. When ozone is inhaled, it irritates the lungs like a bad sunburn and can cause immediate health problems that continue days later. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death.

“The air in the southwestern Pennsylvania metro area is certainly cleaner than when we started the ‘State of the Air’ report 14 years ago,” said Deb Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung of the Mid-Atlantic.

The American Lung Association report reveals that from 2009-2011, many places including Pittsburgh made strong progress compared to 2008-2010, particularly in lower year-round levels of particle pollution. That was as a result of emissions reductions from coal-fired power plants and the transition to cleaner diesel fuels and engines.

The Lung Association led the fight for a new, national air quality standard that strengthened outdated limits on annual levels of particle pollution, announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last December.

Those at greatest risk from air pollution include infants, children, older adults, anyone with lung diseases like asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works or exercises outdoors.

The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2013” report is an annual, national air quality “report card.” The 2013 report — the 14th annual release — uses quality-assured air pollution data compiled by the EPA in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

The report grades counties and ranks cities and counties for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels.

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