PRESS RELEASE | American Lung Association State of the Air Report 2022 for 2018-2020 Shows Fewer Unhealthy Days for Ozone Pollution but Ranks Air Quality Worse for Particle Pollution in Arizona

PHOENIX (April 21, 2022) — The American Lung Association’s 2022 State of the Air report released today shows Arizona has the same ranking for ozone pollution for the period 2018 – 2020, but with fewer unhealthy days, and ranks air quality worse for particle pollution. The Lung Association developed its annual State of the Air report rankings using air quality data for the two most widespread pollutants in the United States — ozone and fine particulate matter. These pollutants pose a public health concern when they reach unhealthy levels.

“As a southwestern desert state with the sunniest cities in the country and increasing wildfires in the western U.S, Arizona, like our neighboring states, shares real air quality challenges when it comes to ozone and particle pollution,” said Daniel Czecholinski, ADEQ Air Quality Division Director. “While we’ve achieved significant improvements in overall air quality over the last 30 years from a 68 percent reduction in emissions — even as Arizona’s population has grown and our economy thrived — more wildfires in the western U.S. create and transport more ozone and particle pollution into the state, which affects our air quality.”

Taking small actions through voluntary programs can add up to cleaner air for Arizona | What you can do to improve air quality >

“As the science linking ozone and particle pollution to negative health impacts continues to grow, it remains essential that we continue every effort to improve air quality across the state to protect everyone living and visiting Arizona today and in the future,” said JoAnna Strother, Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Arizona.

American Lung Association State of the Air 2022 Report | View >

Ozone Levels

The State of the Air 2022 report ranks the Phoenix metropolitan area at 5th in the nation for unhealthy ozone days. Gila, Maricopa, Pima and Pinal Counties each received an “F” for the number of high ozone days, while Yuma County received a “C” — an improved ranking from last year’s report. Ground-level ozone pollution is created when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) chemically react in sunlight. On average, Arizona has more sunlight and less cloud cover than any other state in the nation. Yuma and Phoenix rank number one and two, respectively, as the sunniest cities in the U.S. and this means more sunlight reaches the ground giving ultraviolet radiation a greater chance to react and form more ozone. Compounds that form ozone also come from biomass (shrubs and trees), industry, wildfires, gas-powered garden equipment and more.

Other contributors to ozone pollution in Arizona include emissions from international sources, such as Mexico and China, and other states, such as California and ADEQ is working with our neighbors to better understand ozone transport in an effort to improve air quality for everyone.

In the Phoenix area, vehicles driving on the roads produce the majority of NOx and are the biggest contributor to man-made ozone. A major source of VOCs is plants (vegetation). If there are enough VOCs present, it takes very little NOx to increase ozone levels. And, because of the complexity of ozone formation, less NOx does not necessarily equal less ozone right away.

Ozone Fact Sheet | View >
EPA AQI Guide | View >

To help address the complex ozone problem, ADEQ is partnering with researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona to conduct field studies to verify emissions, model and predict ozone concentrations and identify opportunities to mitigate high ozone levels, including development of potential incentives addressing ozone reduction strategies | View the ADEQ press release about new Arizona Board of Regents’ Grants >

Arizona motorists can improve air quality not only by driving or idling less, but by also keeping vehicles tuned and operating within federal emissions limits. In addition, all Arizonans can help improve air quality by selecting plants for our yards and businesses that produce lower VOCs.

ADEQ Voluntary Vehicle Repair Program | View >
Clean Air Make More Trees & Air Quality in Maricopa County | View >

Particle Levels: PM2.5

The State of the Air 2022 report ranking for the Phoenix metropolitan area remained unchanged at 8th in the nation for year-round particle pollution, measured in small particulate matter or PM-2.5, but had more unhealthy particle pollution days as compared to the previous report. Maricopa, Pinal and Santa Cruz Counties each received an “F” for the number of days with high particle pollution.

During Arizona’s winter holiday season, the combination of smoke from burning wood in fire pits, fireplaces and fireworks and calm, cool weather can cause high levels of particulate matter pollution.

ADEQ Air Quality Data | View >
Particulate Matter Fact Sheet | View >

By switching to propane instead of wood and reducing the use of fireworks, especially during periods of calm winter weather, we can reduce the air pollution that settles over valleys across Arizona during the winter holiday season.

ADEQ encourages Arizonans to stay informed about air quality conditions to protect their health and to learn more about how our individual actions can improve air quality every day, and especially at times when ADEQ air quality meteorologists provide early information about the potential for high pollution days. ADEQ is committed to making information about air quality and health clear and accessible to everyone:

ADEQ Air Arizona Mobile App | View >
ADEQ Air Quality Forecasts | View >
Voluntary Programs to Improve Air Quality | View >


ADEQ Public Information Officer
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