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American Lung Association ranks Spokane County’s air quality; wildfire smoke main culprit

View of downtown Spokane on a smoky day.

April 19, 2023 – In its annual State of the Air report released today, the American Lung Association (ALA) is again ranking air quality in the Spokane metro area poorly for fine particle pollution. The ranking is based on air quality data over a three-year period (2019-2021), during which air quality failed to meet clean air standards for particle pollution due to wildfire smoke on 15 days.

“The annual ALA ranking is not favorable again this year, as expected,” according to Scott K. Windsor, executive director of the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency.

“While the overall air quality in Spokane County has improved significantly from the 1970s through the 1990s, we are now experiencing unhealthy air quality on some summer days due to wildfires,” added Windsor. “We are not alone. In fact, 22 of the top 25 cities listed in ALA’s report for high daily particle pollution are located in the west, a region plagued with severe wildfires in recent years.”

“Smoke from wildfires is contributing to unhealthy air quality which affects us all. Microscopic smoke particles are especially harmful to infants and children, adults 65 years old and older, pregnant women, those suffering from existing health conditions, and other vulnerable individuals. In addition to public health, our quality of life and our economy can be negatively affected by smoke,” said Windsor.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) excludes wildfire smoke from the area’s “attainment” status, considering them “exceptional events.” This means Spokane County’s air quality is still considered by EPA to be in compliance with federal, clean air standards.

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