CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The American Lung Association has released its 2023 “State of the Air” report, and the Charleston-Huntington-Ashland (WV-OH-KY) metro area received mixed results in the report.

This is the 24th year the ALA has released its annual “State of the Air” report. The ALA says the report is designed grade America’s exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution, annual particle pollution and short-term spikes in particle pollution. The grades are created based on data from a three-year period, so this year’s report contains data from 2019 to 2021, the ALA says.

According to the report, this year marks the first year where the WV-OH-KY metro has ranked for one of the cleanest cities for ozone. Last year’s report shows the area tied for the 117th worst in the category. The metro experienced zero unhealthy days of high ozone smog for this year’s data, receiving an “A” grade and tying for first in the report’s cleanest metropolitan areas in the country for ozone.

However, the metro worsened for 24-hour particle pollution, coming in this year at 118th-worst on the list out of 223 metropolitan areas. This category tracks short term spikes in particle pollution. The ALA says these spikes can be dangerous and even deadly. The higher number of unhealthy 24-hour particle pollution days the metro experienced knocked it off this year’s list of cleanest metros for this category, and landed the WV-OH-KY metro at a “B” grade. The ALA’s report says as far as specific counties go, Boyd County received the “B” grade with a weighted average number of 0.3 unhealthy days, Cabell and Kanawha counties both individually still received an “A” grade.

In average annual levels of particle pollution, the WV-OH-KY metro worsened this year, coming in tied for 123rd-worst out of 200 metros, the ALA says. This is a drop from last year’s ranking of 137th-worst, according to the ALA report. As with the 24-hour particle pollution, Boyd County, Kentucky, had the worst score within the metro.

“As we can see from this year’s report data, there is much work to be done in the Charleston-Huntington-Ashland to improve our air quality,” said Aleks Casper, Director of Advocacy, VA, DC, MD, DE for the Lung Association. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for our residents at highest risk, such as children, older adults, individuals who are pregnant and those living with chronic disease. That’s why we are calling on lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to take action to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe.”

The report shows that on a national level, there has been a general improvement of ozone pollution throughout the US. The ALA says this improvement is partially due to the Clean Air Act. The organization says there is still more work to do, however, to fully cleanup harmful pollution, especially as the study shows short-term particle pollution continues to worsen.

From the national data, the ALA found that nearly 120 million people in the U.S., or one in three Americans, live in counties that have unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. According to the study, approximately 54% of that total, approximately 64 million people, are people of color. The study also found that a disproportionate 64% of people of color are more likely than white people to live in a county that has a failing grade in at least one measure and 3.7 tines more likely to live in a county that has a failing grade in all three of the measures.

According to the national data, the worst areas for each category are Los Angeles-Long Beach, California for worst ozone; and Bakersfield, California for worst short-term and worst-year round particle pollution.