Roanoke Valley Ranks Among Nation's Best in Air Quality Despite Worsening Pollution

The Roanoke Valley in Virginia has consistently ranked among the nation's cleanest cities for air quality, but particle pollution has worsened, highlighting the need for stronger policies to combat climate change and protect public health.

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Dil Bar Irshad
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Roanoke Valley Ranks Among Nation's Best in Air Quality Despite Worsening Pollution

Roanoke Valley Ranks Among Nation's Best in Air Quality Despite Worsening Pollution

The Roanoke Valley in Virginia has ranked among the nation's highest in air quality for the eighth consecutive year, according to a study by the American Lung Association. The region's ozone pollution and particle pollution levels were lower than most of the country, earning it a spot on the list of cleanest cities for ozone pollution in the 2024 State of the Air report.

However, the report found that particle pollution has worsened in the Roanoke Valley, though it still earned a passing grade. The daily measure of particle pollution remains unchanged with a B grade, while year-round particle pollution worsened but still met the standard. This comes as the American Lung Association warns that climate change poses a growing danger to air quality that must be addressed.

Why this matters: Despite progress in reducing air pollution, more than 131 million people in the U.S. still live in places with unhealthy air quality levels, with minority communities disproportionately exposed. Stronger policies are needed to combat climate change and protect public health from the harmful effects of air pollution.

Nationally, the report found that 43.9 million people live in areas with failing grades for all three measures of air pollution - ozone, daily particle pollution, and year-round particle pollution. The Commonwealth of Virginia has made strong commitments to healthy air policies, which the American Lung Association supports while opposing any policies that would threaten progress.

The EPA recently finalized new air pollution rules to help clean up particle pollution and address climate change, and the Lung Association is urging the agency to set stronger national limits on ozone pollution. "The Lung Association is urging the EPA to strengthen the national limits on ozone and particle pollution to protect the health of all Americans," said Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's monitoring has found low levels of ozone concentration in the Roanoke Valley, with no days exceeding the health standard in the past decade. This marks a significant improvement from the past when unhealthy ozone days were more frequent. However, experts caution that climate change is making air pollution more likely to form and more difficult to clean up, underscoring the need for continued efforts to reduce emissions.

Key Takeaways

  • Roanoke Valley ranks among nation's highest in air quality for 8 consecutive years.
  • Particle pollution has worsened in Roanoke Valley, though it still meets standards.
  • Over 131 million Americans live in areas with unhealthy air, disproportionately affecting minorities.
  • EPA finalized new rules to clean up particle pollution and address climate change.
  • Climate change makes air pollution more likely to form and harder to clean up.