PRESS RELEASE | Make a pledge to help improve Arizona’s air quality in celebration of the upcoming Earth Day 50th anniversary

PHOENIX (April 21, 2020) – The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2020 report released today shows that ozone and particulate matter pollution contribute to the failing grades for counties in Arizona. These pollutants can reach unhealthy levels, affecting public health. For Maricopa County, home to the Phoenix metropolitan area, weather conditions combined with our own individual activities are the leading cause for bad air days.

“Driving our cars, burning wood in fireplaces and fire pits, even using a leaf blower instead of a broom. It can all add up to create pollution that impacts people’s health,” said Daniel Czecholinski, ADEQ Air Quality Division Director. “If the weather is calm, as it often is in Arizona, pollution can build up and create a bigger problem that can persist for many days until a change in weather helps to clear the air.”

But, even small actions can add up to larger improvements in air quality for you, your family and everyone in Arizona to enjoy. As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is celebrated this week, learn how you can help with our voluntary programs, and join the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) in making a Clean Air Pledge. Together, we can make a difference. 

Air Quality Voluntary Programs | View >

ADEQ Clean Air Pledge | View >

“Many different types of pollution can be harmful to our health and can worsen bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and other respiratory issues ꟷ including those symptoms related to COVID -19,” said JoAnna Strother, Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Arizona. “It remains essential that we continue every effort to maintain and improve air quality across the state to protect everyone living and visiting Arizona today and in the future.”

American Lung Association State of the Air 2020 Report | View >

Ozone Pollution Levels

The State of the Air 2020 report ranks the Phoenix metropolitan area at 7th in the nation for most ozone polluted, which is unchanged from the 2019 report. And, Maricopa, Gila, Pinal, Pima and Yuma Counties each receive an “F” for the number of high ozone days.

Ground level ozone pollution is created when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) chemically react in sunlight. During the long, sunny days of spring and summer, more ozone is created.

ADEQ Air Quality Forecasts | View >

Ozone Fact Sheet | View >

In the Phoenix area, vehicles driving on the roads produce the majority of NOx and are the biggest contributor to man-made ozone. Due to recent events, traffic has been reduced on area roads, and there has been about 10 percent drop in ozone compared to the same time last year. However, a wet March also contributed to the improved air quality. 

A major source of VOCs are plants (vegetation). If there are enough VOCs present, it doesn’t take much NOx for ozone levels to increase. And, because of the complexity of ozone formation, a reduction of NOx does not necessarily equal a reduction of ozone right away.

Why less traffic doesn’t necessarily mean less ozone | View >

You can help improve air quality not only by driving or idling less in your vehicle, but by also making sure your vehicle is well tuned and operating within federal emissions limits. In addition, you can help improve air quality by selecting plants for your yard or business that produce lower VOCs.

ADEQ Voluntary Vehicle Repair Program | View >     

Clean Air Make More Trees & Air Quality in Maricopa County | View >

Particulate Matter Pollution Levels: PM-2.5

The State of the Air 2020 report ranks the Phoenix metropolitan area 7th worst in the nation for particle pollution, which is measured in small particulate matter or PM-2.5 by the American Lung Association. This is a significant jump from last year’s ranking when Phoenix ranked 32nd in the nation. And, Maricopa and Pinal Counties each received an “F” for the number of days with high particulate matter pollution.

The data used in the report cover 2016, 2017 and 2018. The holiday season 2017/2018 was one of the worst on record for particulate matter pollution, contributing significantly to our poor performance in the report. The main source of that particulate matter was smoke from burning wood in fire pits and fireplaces and setting off fireworks. A period of calm, cool weather created a stagnation event with little wind and no rain that led to the buildup of smoke over the Valley.

Between December 23, 2017, and January 1, 2018, particulate matter from smoke exceeded the federal health standard six times, setting new daily records for 5 of those days. The levels of PM-2.5 during that time were 77 percent higher than average. And, January 1, 2018, was the highest exceedance on record. When the air is that bad, everyone, even healthy people, could begin to experience some adverse health effects from the bad air.          

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 all work together to reduce the air pollution that settles over valleys across Arizona during the next holiday season.

Learn How You Can Help

Air Quality Voluntary Programs | View >

ADEQ Clean Air Pledge | View >

Clean Air Make More Trees & Air Quality in Maricopa County | View >

Clean Air Make More Fireplace Retrofit Program | View >

Contact

ADEQ Public Information Officer | 602-771-2215 (office) | 602-540-8072 (cell) | Email >