The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report found several Florida cities earned mixed rankings for the nation’s most widespread air pollutants. The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly.
Destin, Crestview, Fort Walton Beach, Palm Bay, Melbourne, Titusville, Panama City, Tallahassee, Sebring, and Avon Park experienced zero unhealthy air days of ozone pollution and were named to the cleanest cities lists.
Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, Gainesville, Lake City, Sarasota, North Port, Orlando, Lakeland, Deltona, Palm Bay, Melbourne Titusville, Tallahassee, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater were added to the cleanest cities list for short-term particle pollution.
Palm Bay, Melbourne, and Titusville were the only cities in Florida on all three cleanest cities list for ozone, year-round, and short-term particle pollution.
“Florida residents should be aware that we’re breathing unhealthy air, driven by extreme heat as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk,” said American Lung Association Director of Advocacy, Ashley Lyerly. “In addition to challenges here in Florida, the 20th-anniversary ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that more than 4 in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we’re heading in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting public health.”
This year’s report covers the most recent quality-assured data available collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2015-2017. Notably, those three years were the hottest recorded in global history.
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.
Ozone Pollution in Florida
Compared to the 2018 report, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Port St. Lucie, Orlando, Lakeland, and Deltona experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report.
“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Lyerly. “When older adults or children with asthma breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room. Ozone can even shorten life itself.”
This report documents how warmer temperatures brought by climate change make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up. This year’s report showed that ozone levels increased in most cities nationwide, in large part due to the record-breaking global heat experienced in the three years tracked in the report.
Particle Pollution in Florida
The 2019 report also found year-round particle pollution levels slightly higher in Orlando, Lakeland, Deltona, Miami, Port St. Lucie, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater than the 2018 report. Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution.
“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 Lyerly. “Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines.”
“State of the Air” 2019 also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The report found that Miami, Port St. Lucie, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater had fewer days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels.
While the report examined data from 2015-2017, this 20th annual report online provides information on air pollution trends back to the first report. Learn more about city rankings, as well as air quality across Florida and the nation, in the 2019 “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota.