Minnesota’s Grades Improve In Air Pollution ‘Report Card’
Minnesota received better grades in the annual American Lung Association State of the Air Report, which was released today. This year all nine Minnesota counties with enough data on particulates to earn a grade received an “A” or a “B” score; four counties continued a two-year trend toward better grades for particulate pollution: Dakota, Olmsted and Scott counties all earned “A” grades for particle pollution this year, up from “B” grades last year. Ramsey County’s score also improved from a “C” last year to a “B” in the current report. Stearns County also saw improvement in particulate pollution, moving from a “C” to a “B” grade this year.
In ozone pollution, the state’s “A” and “B” grades were largely unchanged. Anoka County received the only “C” grade for ozone, and Crow Wing County improved from a “B” to an “A” grade in this year’s report. A link to the State of the Air Report website and the full report can be found here.
The State of the Air Report uses data collected at state-owned air quality monitors that is certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This year’s report analyzed data from the three-year period of 2011 to 2013. Grades are determined by the number of air quality alerts for ozone or particle pollution that occurred during those three years.
While both ozone and particulate pollution are emitted from a variety of sources, the single largest source of air pollution in Minnesota is vehicle emissions. Both ozone and particle pollution can trigger asthma attacks, and can pose health risks to many Minnesotans.
“Air pollution puts people at higher risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and is a particular health concern for people with preexisting lung disease, as well as the very young and the elderly,” said Robert Moffitt, communications director of the American Lung Association in Minnesota. “While our overall grades are quite good, they may not reflect the air quality at the neighborhood level, especially near busy roadways, industrial areas, and other places where air pollution can concentrate.”
New tougher federal standards on ozone are expected to be finalized in October, underscoring the importance of reducing air pollution levels now. Minnesota is taking steps to reduce air pollution through voluntary measures, via a public/private effort called Clean Air Minnesota.
Other signs of progress include the recent conversion of the Black Dog power plant from coal to natural gas; continued growth in the use of cleaner-burning fuels such as E85; and a small but energetic community of electric vehicle owners in the state. Minnesota also promotes the use of biodiesel, which reduces particulate emissions statewide by an estimated 163 tons per year. More information can be found at www.CleanAirChoice.org
“Air pollution is a big problem, but we can all take some simple steps to reduce the amount of pollution we generate by sharing a ride, choosing cleaner fuels and vehicles and being aware when air quality is poor,” Moffitt said. “If we do, our grades in future reports will be even better, and we can all breathe a little easier.”