The Cleveland area leads the state in the number of deaths and serious health problems caused by air pollution, and ranks ninth worst in the country, according to a new report released today.
The Health of the Air report, compiled by the American Thoracic Society and New York University’s Marron Institute of Urban Management, found that air pollution causes as many as 9,320 deaths each year in metropolitan areas in the U.S.
The number of air pollution-related deaths are comparable to the 9,967 alcohol-related traffic deaths that occurred in the U.S. in 2014.
The Cleveland area suffered an estimated 196 deaths and 487 major health episodes from exceedingly high levels of two air pollutants – ozone and fine particulate matter – the report found.
Residents of the Cleveland area also experienced 231,859 days when air pollution sickened a person to the extent he or she could not go to work or school, or participate in other activities.
The Cleveland area’s ninth place ranking nationally for air pollution-related deaths and serious illnesses was just above the Cincinnati area, which ranked 10th. Four of the worst 10 cities are located in California, which ranked as the most-polluted state in the nation, followed by Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio.
The Health of the Air report does not include additional chronic health problems caused by air pollution such as cancer, new-onset asthma and diabetes. Deaths from those long-term, non-fatal chronic illnesses would add to the total health burden of air pollution outcomes, the report said.
“This previously unavailable information is designed to increase public awareness and better inform public decision making with regard to the management of outdoor air pollution,” said professor Kevin Cromar of the Marron Institute, the lead author of the study.
The Health of the Air report contains findings similar to the 2016 State of the Air report compiled by the American Lung Association and released in April. That report ranked the Cleveland area as the 11th most-polluted metropolitan area in the country.
Cleveland’s biggest problem is particulate matter, the microscopic pieces of soot, smoke, dirt, dust and liquid in the air that are byproducts of burning fossil fuels at factories, power plants and in automobiles. Particulates are considered the most harmful form of air pollution because they are able to bypass the body’s defenses and be inhaled into the lungs.
Cleveland ranked 34th in the nation for particle pollution, which earned it a D grade.
The Cleveland area experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone levels this year than last year, but still remained the 27th most ozone-polluted in the country, which earned it an F grade.
Significant contributors to ozone pollution in Ohio include emissions from cars, trucks, trains, boats, and lawn care equipment, plus coal-burning power plants. Ozone-polluted air is especially harmful to children and older adults with asthma and other lung diseases.
Nationwide, ozone pollution has decreased as major sources of ozone-creating emissions such as coal-fired power plants and vehicles are cleaned up. Cleveland was among 16 cities that reported their lowest levels ever of particle pollution.