American Lung Association “State of the Air 2013” Report Finds Anchorage’s Air Quality Healthy and Fairbanks’ Air Failing
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2013” report finds the air quality in Anchorage, and nationwide, continues the long-term trend to much healthier air. The Fairbanks North Star Borough remains a notable exception showing high levels of short-term and annual particle pollution.
Fairbanks is the 11th-most polluted city for short-term particle pollution and tied as the 18th-most polluted city in the nation for year-round levels of particle pollution. 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).
Fairbanks has long had summer air pollution issues due to wildfires and air inversion in the region. It appears that now, year-round air quality has deteriorated also. The main human culprit for particle pollution in the area is home heating emissions. With rising fuel oil costs and little natural gas access, more and more residents are heating with wood. There are currently no regulations in Alaska restricting wood stove use. That means that there are many outdated or homemade models in use, which emit high levels of particle pollution.
On a positive note, Anchorage ranked as the 14th cleanest city in the nation with an annual particle pollution level of 6.2 µg/m3. As noted in the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation’s 2013 “Live, Work, Play” Metrics Report, one of the many, and often overlooked, reasons to get outside and play in Anchorage is breathing in the fresh Alaska air. Anchorage, when compared to other large cities in the United States, has substantially low levels of air pollution.
House Bill 35, regarding Home Heating Conversion Loans and House Bill 163, regarding Regulation of Solid Fuel Burning Devices, were introduced this session in Juneau by Fairbanks legislator Tammie Wilson. While neither bill made it through committee, in future legislative sessions, the American Lung Association in Alaska will continue to support similar legislation to reduce particle pollution and improve air quality in Fairbanks and other areas of Alaska.
The Lung Association led the fight for a new, national air quality standard that strengthened outdated limits on annual levels of particle pollution, announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last December. Thanks to air pollution health standards like this, set under the Clean Air Act and the EPA enforcement of these standards, the U.S. has seen continued reductions in air pollution.
Cleaning up major air pollution sources through steps like the cleaner gasoline and cleaner vehicle standards will drastically cut both ozone and particle pollution. That means more health protections for the nearly 132 million people living in counties with dangerous levels of either ozone or particle pollution. 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 the most recent quality assured air pollution data, compiled by the EPA, in 2009, 2010, and 2011. These data come from the official monitors for the two most widespread types of pollution, ozone (smog) and particle pollution (PM2.5, also known as soot). The report grades counties and ranks cities and counties based on their scores for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels.
The American Lung Association in Alaska urges the public to join the fight for clean air and to learn how to protect themselves and their families from air pollution by visiting www.stateoftheair.org.