Department of Ecology News Release - April 30, 2015

Washington's air quality improved, but risks remain

OLYMPIA – Washingtonians are breathing cleaner air today than they were two decades ago, according to a report given to Gov. Jay Inslee this week.

The Washington Department of Ecology revealed the good news at a Results Washington meeting, reporting that as of this year 100 percent of the state meets federal air quality standards. Nearly half the state’s population lived in areas not meeting federal air quality standards in 1995.

“There has been a lot of hard work by state and local governments to improve our air quality,” said Maia Bellon, Ecology’s director. “Air pollution is one of the biggest risks to public health we face today. We need to remain focused on improving air quality so we all have clean air to breathe.”

Although the report contained good news, Ecology cautioned that the state’s air quality is still at risk.

Fourteen Washington communities remain on the verge of violating air pollution limits for particulate matter, primarily from woodstoves. A recent report released by the American Lung Association listed Yakima and SeaTac among the top 25 cities most polluted by particle pollution, underscoring the need to remain focused on reducing air pollution in Washington.  

Another cause for caution is the more stringent ozone pollution (smog) regulations the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue later this year. Ecology is concerned that a lower ozone pollution limit could put the Puget Sound region at risk of violating standards.

Public health isn’t the only issue associated with violating air pollution limits.  Businesses and local governments suffer economic consequences when air quality standards are not met. This makes permit requirements for new and expanding businesses much more stringent.

Ecology partners with local air agencies throughout the state to protect public health by ensuring air pollution meets required limits. Air pollution can affect people’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Air pollution particles can also act as carriers for toxics and cancer-causing materials.

“Clean air is vital. It’s something that benefits all of us, through better health, a stronger economy and a sustainable environment,” Bellon said.

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Contacts:

Camille St. Onge, communication manager, 360-584-6501, @ecologyWA