Washington, D.C. Gets An ‘F’ For Air Quality

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If you live in the District of Columbia, the air you breathe may put your health at risk.

This is the message the American Lung Association sent to everyone who lives in the nation’s capitol Wednesday, when the organization released its 2015 State Of The Air Report.

D.C. received an ‘F’ for Ozone levels in the air this year, which is actually an improvement over years past, but far from a passing grade.

The State Of The Air Report uses local and federal government air pollution data to rank cities and counties on levels of ozone in the air. It also collects data on daily levels of fine particulate pollution, which can come from smoke, coal, smog and soot.

The city saw just 22 days with unhealthy ozone levels in between 2011 and 2013, a sharp decrease from peak levels in 1996 when the city had more than 40 days of unhealthy ozone levels.

Graph of ozone levels in Washington, D.C.

Ground level ozone is caused by emissions from industrial facilities, motor vehicle exhaust and chemical solvents, among other things. Breathing in ozone can cause a variety of health problems, according to the EPA, and has harmful effects on vegetation and ecosystems.

What’s causing the bad ozone levels?

“Two words,”according to a release accompanying the the report. “Climate change.”

“Climate change creates the ideal conditions for both particle and ozone pollution,” the report said. “Warmer weather increases the risk of ozone pollution and makes cleaning it up even more challenging.”

D.C. fared better in other categories, though. The city got a ‘C’ in 24-hour particle pollution, which meausres all the pollutants in the air throughout the year, and just a ‘pass’ grade in the average annual particle polution.

Despite its failing ozone level grade, D.C. wasn’t even close to the most polluted city in the country. California cities took the top five spots, with Los Angeles leading the pack, and other western cities rounded out the top ten.

The Fresno-Madera metro area took the prize as the city with the overall most polluted air in the country.

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