State of Our Air: Philly Is the 11th Most Polluted City in the U.S.

You might want to hold your breath for this one.

Alright, Be Wellers, it’s Thursday, which means the weekend is so close you can almost smell it, right? Oh, wait. No, don’t smell it. In fact, don’t smell anything—don’t even breathe! According to the American Lung Association’s 2013 State of the Air report, released yesterday, the Philadelphia metro area checks in at 11th for year-round particle pollution (the dirty part of truck exhaust) and 20th for ozone pollution (smog). The good news? The report shows that air quality nationwide is continuing the long-term trend toward much healthier air. Woo! Just … you know… not here. (“Here” meaning the Philadelphia metro area as defined in the report, which includes counties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.)

Philadelphia County in particular received an “F” for its ozone pollution and a “D” for its particle pollution. The Air Quality Index, a color-coded scale the EPA helped develop to illustrate days when pollution is higher, also shows that we have an average of 32 “orange” high-ozone days a year, signaling days during which the air is decidedly unhealthy to breathe. Despite this crappy news, Philadelphia reported its fewest unhealthy ozone days last year since the State of the Air reports began, as well as its lowest year-round particle pollution levels ever. We still have a lot of work to do, and our health would certainly benefit from breathing better air, but still this is progress. And progress is good.

But keep in mind that ozone pollution and particle pollution are bad news, and any amount of it sucks. You may not realize it, but out of 1,537,471 Philadelphians, 34,603 are living with pediatric asthma, 110,641 are living with adult asthma, and 72,2503 are living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). These people are at much greater risk than the rest of us; the American Lung Association says that air pollution can cause further respiratory and cardiovascular complications for those already afflicted—including premature death.

Let’s take whatever advancements and setbacks in air pollution we’ve made this year in stride and keep looking toward a cleaner future and a shining 2014 report card. I believe in you, Philly. Check out the American Lung Association to see what needs to be done and what you can do.