Nevada County receives failing grade in American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report | TheUnion.com

Nevada County receives failing grade in American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report

The American Lung Association has released its annual "State of the Air" report, which grades California counties on air quality, and particularly on harmful ozone and particle pollution.

In the report, Nevada County received an F grade for ozone and a B grade for particle pollution.

Ozone (also called smog) is a corrosive gas that can act like a sunburn on lungs and can cause asthma attacks and other respiratory impacts, according to Will Barrett, a senior policy analyst in California for the American Lung Association.

"Our report shows the broader Sacramento region has significant problems with ozone pollution," Barrett said. "For Nevada County a large part of that is local — cars and trucks ­— but also from being downwind from the Sacramento metro area."

He said that as pollution from cars, trucks and other sources across the valley mixes in the air on hot, sunny days, ozone can form and get trapped against the foothills, having an impact on residents' health.

In a statement, the American Lung Association said, "Addressing climate change and the resulting air pollution is key in the fight for healthy air."

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The Sacramento region overall ranked fifth in the nation for the worst ozone quality. The report also found that 90 percent of Californians live in counties with unhealthy air at some point during the year.

Barrett added individuals or companies can be fined for causing pollution beyond what is allowed under rules designed to achieve air quality standards. He said the state issued fines on Wednesday against companies that failed to ensure compliance with state truck pollution rules.

Not all of the news is bad. Barrett said: "Over the course of the report the clean air programs have really driven down the amount of ozone pollution."

Sacramento has experienced a 56 percent reduction in unhealthy ozone days since the 2000 report and an 83 percent drop in unhealthy particle days since 2004.

Asthma sufferers, children, the elderly, and those with lung diseases including cancer are at higher risk of air and soot pollution.

"We need to reduce emissions," Barrett said. "We need to make sure our cars are getting cleaner, as well as our fuels, and to reduce the number of driving trips."

He added incentive programs are being implemented in many regions, encouraging home owners with wood burning stoves to transition to a form of heat with less emissions.

The State of the Air 2018 report is based on air quality monitoring data collected in 2014 through 2016, the most recent years of quality assured data available. However, California's historic wildfires of 2017 were not captured in this year's report.

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or by calling 530-477-4231.