Even though air quality improved across Louisiana from 2014 to 2016, Baton Rouge saw increased levels of soot and other tiny particles in the air, making it the most polluted city in the state in terms of particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association’s 2018 State of the Air report.
Nationally, Baton Rouge is ranked No. 58 among 187 U.S. metro areas for air pollution, tied with Albany, Georgia; Erie, Pennsylvania; Greenville, South Carolina; and Sacramento, California.
The city is ranked No. 30 out of 227 U.S. metro areas for the number of high ozone days and No. 56 out of 201 areas for short-term spikes in soot.
East Baton Rouge Parish was given an F grade for ozone pollution and a C grade for 24-hour spikes of soot and other particle pollution. The parish was given a “pass” grade for annual particle pollution, though the report says its concentration levels remain high.
“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices,” says Ashley Lyerly, ALA’s regional director of public policy. “These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal.”
Released today, the report looks at air quality trends over a three-year period. It examines air quality through the two most widespread outdoor pollutants: ozone and particle pollution, which includes pollen, mold, dirt, aerosol and metals in the air. Particle pollution is analyzed through annual levels and short-term spikes.
Statewide, Louisiana saw a slight cut in ozone pollution and experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone, despite national ozone levels rising. The association attributes Louisiana’s improvement to cities like Monroe, Ruston and Bastrop having experienced zero unhealthy days of high ozone.
The report also found that Louisiana had fewer days when short-term particle pollution has reached unhealthy levels, continuing a statewide trend. New Orleans saw slightly worse levels of year-round particle pollution than Baton Rouge. But the lung association says the city still met the national standard and was tied as the No. 66 most polluted metro area in the U.S.
Despite the improvements—which can partially be attributed to the Clean Air Act, unhealthy levels of year-round pollution in Louisiana continue to put our citizens, the report says.