New Report: RI Air Quality Is Mixed Bag

Apr 19, 2018

Rhode Island's air quality is slightly improving but still needs work, according to a new report from the American Lung Association. 

For the past 19 years, the association has been grading ozone and particle pollution levels in about 900 counties across the country in its State of the Air report. 

Providence County received a D for its ozone, or smog, pollution - a small improvement from the F it received in last year's report. Kent and Washington County's grades remained the same this year, with Kent receiving a D and Washington an F.

Michael Seilback, vice president of public policy and communications for the American Lung Association’s Northeast region, said poor air quality is a problem because it puts people’s health at risk.

"Breathing in those pollutants could cause asthma attacks, respiratory and cardiovascular harm, and even cause premature death," Seilback said. 

Although Rhode Island is still struggling with its ozone pollution, particle pollution levels are much better. 

Particle pollution is commonly referred to as soot. It comes from wildfires, coal-fired power plants and diesel emissions. 

Both Kent and Washington counties earned A's while Providence county received a B. 

Seilback said overall, this report shows nationally, air quality has gotten better and continues to improve.

"Over the decades that the (federal) Clean Air Act has been in effect, it has directly led to decreased levels of ozone and decreased levels of particle pollution, and the results in this year’s report shows our air quality is drastically cleaner than it had been," Seilback said. 

Still, Seilback said about 134 million Americans live in counties with unhealthy ozone or particle pollution levels. 

Seilback said it's up to each state's congressional delegation to fight against any efforts to rollback the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to keep air quality protections in place. 

The American Lung Association's 2018 State of the Air report grades ozone and particle pollution levels collected by state EPA offices from 2014-2016. Those offices only monitor air quality in select counties.

Pollution levels in Bristol and Newport counties are not monitored.