GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Unhealthy levels of ozone are a problem across Michigan, putting residents at risk for premature death and other serious health problems, a new report by the American Lung Association concludes.
The organization released its 2016 State of the Air report Wednesday, which analyzed 2013-2015 data from county, state, federal and tribal authorities about ozone and long and short-term particle levels.
Ozone, also known as smog, is created when sunlight reacts with vehicle emissions and other sources. The American Lung Association says smog can irritate the lungs and cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death.
Particle pollution is the mix of solids and liquid droplets floating in the air, which may include dust, dirt, soot and smoke from fires of business and vehicle emissions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Lung Association says particle pollution can affect the lungs and bloodstream, leading to asthma and heart attacks, lung cancer and even premature death.
More than half of U.S. residents live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution and Michigan is no better, the State of the Air report concluded.
None of Michigan’s 23 counties with data earned a passing grade for their ozone level. In fact, all of them had an “F” grade except for Chippewa County, which received a “D” grade. Among those with a failing grade were Allegan, Kalamazoo, Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa counties.
Allegan County had the highest average number of high ozone days at 6.7 a year. Muskegon had an average of 6.2 high ozone days. On the other end of the spectrum was Kalamazoo and Kent counties, with an average of one and two high ozone days respectively. Ottawa County had an average of 2.3 high ozone days a year.
Most of Michigan’s 17 counties with data earned an “A” for low levels of particle pollution, including Allegan and Kent counties. Four counties including Kalamazoo received a “B” grade. Wayne County, home to Detroit, earned a “D”.
Kalamazoo County was the only one in West Michigan with a dropping grade, moving from an “A” to a “B” for particle pollution. The rest of the area’s grades remained unchanged.
While the Grand Rapids area was one of the cleanest places nationwide for short-term particles and had reduced its average number of days with unhealthy ozone levels, it remained tied for 18th most polluted ozone in the nation, the report found.
All of the most polluted cities in the U.S. were in California. Bakersfield took the first and second spots in all three areas of ozone, year round particle pollution and short term particle pollution. The Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor area was the only Michigan market to make the dirty list, coming in at 18th worst for year round particle pollution.