The rankings were included in
the group’s “State of the Air 2012” report. The annual air quality report
grades cities and counties based, in part, on the color-coded Air Quality Index
developed by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to alert the public
to daily unhealthy air conditions.
The 13th annual report uses
the most recent, quality-controlled EPA data collected from 2008-10 from
official monitors for ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread
types of air pollution. Counties are graded for ozone, year-round particle
pollution and short-term particle pollution levels. Also, the report uses the
EPA’s calculations for year-round particle levels.
Generally, the report found
that air quality in America’s most polluted cities was at its cleanest since the
organization’s annual report began 13 years ago. This year’s report details the
trend that standards set under the Clean Air Act to cleanup major air pollution
sources — including coal-fired power plants, diesel engines, and SUVs — are
working to drastically cut ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot) from the
air. Despite this progress, unhealthy levels of air pollution still
exist and in some parts of the nation worsened.
More than 40 percent of
people in the United States live in areas where air pollution continues to
threaten their health. That means more than 127 million people are living in
counties with dangerous levels of either ozone or particle pollution that can
cause wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks or premature death.
The Cincinnati region ranked
21st for high ozone days out of 277 metropolitan areas. Also, it ranked 39th
for 24-hour air particle pollution.
Still, the region is
improving. The region has had 19.4 fewer high ozone days annually on average since
1996, and 10 fewer high-particle pollution days since 2000.