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Wildfire smoke moves C.O. up bad-air rankings list

American Lung Association ranks area as 22nd-worst

air quality worsens in central Oregon

BEND, Ore. - The American Lung Association said Wednesday its “State of the Air” 2019 report found that the Bend-Prineville area is now the 22nd most-polluted area in the U.S. for short-term particle pollution.

Crook County had its highest particle pollution readings on record, and went from a “D” grade last year to an “F” grade this year for unhealthy particle days. Deschutes County did not record enough data to receive a complete grade, the organization said.

The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal.

The Bend-Prineville area experienced nearly three times as many unhealthy particle days, compared to last year’s report. Many of these spikes were directly linked to events like wildfires, which are increasing in frequency and intensity in many areas due to climate change, the Lung Association said.

“Residents in the area should know that we’re breathing even more unhealthy air, driven by wildfires as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk,” said Cathy Gidley, executive director for the American Lung Association in Oregon. “Across the state of Oregon, many places have seen their air quality worsen significantly. We have to do more to protect public health and people’s lives.”

The quality of air in Central Oregon causes many to stay indoors and participate less in outdoor activities when the smoke hits.

Cyclist Alan Wulzen said, "I go out a lot less. It's about the only time of the year that we use ACin the house and close the windows up. I use Juniper Fitness Center during those times and don't do cycling, or just leave the area."

The Medford-Grants Pass area is now the 10th most-polluted area in the U.S. for annual particle pollution and 17th most-polluted for short-term particle pollution. The Eugene-Springfield and Portland-Vancouver-Salem areas rank as the 19th and 23rd most polluted for short-term particle pollution respectively.

Each year, the “State of the Air” provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution, also known as smog, and particle pollution, also called soot.

The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.

“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal,” said Gidley.

There are many programs that will help improve the quality of air. "The clean fuels program is a program that looks at reducing the carbon intensity in our fuels. As the carbon intensity comes down it means we are putting less carbon pollution into the air. So that's a program that is ongoing so as long as we continue to support it, I think we are going to see some good payoffs in our air quality, said Carrie Nyssen, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association."

Learn more about Bend’s rankings, as well as air quality across Oregon and the nation, in the 2019 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota

Top 25 

most polluted cities for short-term particle pollution

1.   Bakersfield, CA

2.   Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA

3.   Fairbanks, AK

4.   San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA

5.   Missoula, MT

6.   Yakima, WA

7.   Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA

8.   Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT

9.   Seattle-Tacoma, WA

10.  Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV

11. Logan, UT-ID

12. Visalia, CA

13. Phoenix Mesa, AZ

14. El Centro, CA

15. Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d’Alene, WA-ID (tie)

15. Sacramento-Roseville, CA (tie)

17. Medford-Grants Pass, OR (tie)

17. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA (tie)

19. Eugene-Springfield, OR

20. Salinas, CA

21. Anchorage, AK

22. Bend-Prineville, OR

23. Portland-Vancouver-Salem, OR-WA (tie)

23. Reno-Carson City-Fernley, NV (tie)

25. Bismarck, ND (tie)

25. Pocatello, ID (tie)


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