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Report finds good air quality for our area

Charlottesville, and several cities and counties in the Shenandoah Valley, got high marks for air quality in the American Lung Association's 2022 State of the Air report. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

The annualState of the Air report analyzes data from more than 4,000 Environmental Protection Agency monitoring sites. In this latest review, localities were rated on levels of both particle and ozone pollution from 2018 to 2020.

ALEKS CASPER: And we look at a variety of what we consider 'metro areas,' so areas encompassing a portion of cities, so for example the Harrisonburg-Staunton area includes two counties and three independent cities.

Aleks Casper is the association's director of advocacy.

CASPER: We look at ozone, which is considered, for most people, smog, and then we look at particle pollution, which, for most people, we consider soot.

Particle pollutants can be in solid or liquid form, and can come from things like agriculture, vehicle exhaust, and wood stoves. The good news for our region is that the Lynchburg, Charlottesville, and Harrisonburg-Staunton areas all made the list for the top 25 cities in the country for lowest amounts of particle pollution year-round.

CASPER: Breathing in or exposure to ozone and particle pollution really is not good for us, and can cause some significant health concerns. It can include, you know, exacerbation of asthma, respiratory illness, heart disease, cardiovascular damage.

Charlottesville and Harrisonburg-Staunton were also among the 64 cities that did not have a single day where ozone pollution reached dangerous levels. The counties of Albemarle, Madison, Rockbridge, and Rockingham also scored well on ozone metrics, and Albemarle and Rockingham also had low levels of particle pollution.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.