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Report shows improvements in St. Louis’ air quality

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth
St. Louis Public Radio

Ozone pollution in St. Louis has slightly improved, according to the 2018 State of the Airreport released this month by the American Lung Association. Despite the improvements, the metro area is still ranked the 29th most polluted in the nation.

Susannah Fuchs, the director of clean air at the American Lung Association in Missouri, said one of the reasons St. Louis is still on the list is because of stricter clean air standards.

“Vehicles are generally cleaner than they were 20 years ago,” Fuchs said. “Lots of industry and business has much regulation put on it. So it’ll keep staying on this list until we can figure out more things we can do to reduce the precursors to ozone that are produced by all kinds of different sources.”

The city of St. Louis received a “C” for ozone pollution. Both St. Louis County and St. Charles County received “F” grades. Both counties had several orange ozone days. St. Louis County listed 14 over a three-year period and St. Charles County had 22. An orange day means the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive populations.

However, St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis  received a passing grade for annual particle pollution. St. Charles County does not have enough monitors to determine whether it passed or failed for particle pollution.

Exposure to pollution poses health risks, including asthma attacks, potential reproductive and developmental harm and a host of respiratory issues. Fuchs said record high temperatures and increased ozone days put several groups at risk, including the young, the elderly and people with lung diseases.

“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,” Fuchs said. “Ozone can even shorten life itself.”

Nationwide, roughly 133.9 million people were exposed to unhealthy levels of pollution over the three years covered in the report — 2014, 2015 and 2016. That’s slightly higher than last year’s report, which found about 125 million people were exposed.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter @Marissanne2011

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.