You know the saying: C’s get degrees. Northern Virginia didn’t get straight-A’s in the American Lung Association’s new State of the Air report released Wednesday, but at least it didn’t get hit with any failing grades either.
The study looks into how healthy the air is, particularly with regard to high ozone levels and particle pollution, which the association calls “two of the most widespread and dangerous air pollutants.”
The top of the class for Northern Virginia when it comes to ozone is Fauquier County, which scored an A. Prince William County landed a B. Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties all received C’s.
Things look better when it comes to the area’s particle pollution. Arlington and Loudoun counties got A’s there, and Fairfax County got a B. There is no particle pollution data for Fauquier or Prince William counties.
B-graded Prince William County had one ozone Code Orange alert day (where the air was unhealthy for sensitive groups) tallied. Of the C-graded counties, Arlington had four; Fairfax had five; and Loudoun had three. Of those, only Fairfax County had one Code Orange alert day for particle pollution.
Another aspect of the report highlighted populations at risk from bad air — those who are under 18, 65 and over, suffer from asthma or cardiovascular disease, and so on, as well as poverty estimates and non-white community members.
Hundreds of thousands of people in at-risk populations call Northern Virginia home.
The numbers are more daunting on a national scale, especially when it comes to people of color.
“Although people of color are 41 percent of the overall population of the U.S., they are 54 percent of the nearly 120 million people living in counties with at least one failing grade,” the report states.
“And in the counties with the worst air quality that get failing grades for all three pollution measures, 72 percent of the 18 million residents affected are people of color, compared to the 28 percent who are white.”
There are no Northern Virginia entries on the American Lung Association’s list of cleanest cities, but the commonwealth did have some winners.
Blacksburg-Christiansburg, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg-Staunton, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach-Norfolk are among the winners for ozone levels. Lynchburg is 17th cleanest for year-round particle pollution. Charlottesville, Harrisonburg-Staunton, Lynchburg, and Virginia Beach-Norfolk all made the list for cleanest cities by short-term particle pollution.
Northern Virginia did significantly better in the report for high ozone days than their neighbors in DC and Maryland, both of which are plagued with F’s.
DC itself, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, and Prince George’s counties all failed.
It’s not just the DC area, of course. According to the report, “nearly 36% of Americans — 119.6 million people — still live in places with failing grades for unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.”
That’s 17.6 million fewer than last year, but “the number of people living in counties with failing grades for daily spikes in deadly particle pollution was 63.7 million, the most reported in the last 10 years.”
The full American Lung Association report is online.
Featured photo courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority
For more stories like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine’s News newsletter.