When It Comes to Air Quality, Washington Gets a Big, Fat "F"

The American Lung Association says our region has some work to do.

Washington is known for its humidity and fog, and now for its notorious air quality. Washington received an F in air quality from the American Lung Association. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user moonlightbulb.

Washingtonians know we can blame our allergies on a number of things: blooming flowers, high pollen counts–and smog. In fact, we’re breathing in a whole lot of polluted air, at least enough for the American Lung Association to give the region an F in air quality in its 2012 State of the Air report.

The annual report gave Fs to DC, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Frederick, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore in ozone pollution, or smog, one of the most widespread types of air pollution. An F grade means the region experienced nine or more days of air quality that was unhealthy for sensitive groups like asthmatics, unhealthy for the entire population, very unhealthy, or hazardous.

DC received a D in particle pollution, which is another widespread type of air pollution that’s made of bits of solids and aerosols. Fortunately, counties in Virginia, including Arlington and Fairfax, received Bs in this category, as did Montgomery and Baltimore City in Maryland.

While this news is certainly a cause for concern, we can find comfort (kind of) in the fact that we’re not alone. Nearly four out of ten people in the US live in counties that received an F in air quality. California was one of the most polluted states, with ten of the most polluted cities, although the association noted that the state had “cleaned up greatly in the past 13 years.” The association also said that overall, the nation’s air quality is at its cleanest since it began reporting 13 years ago.

“But despite these improvements, America’s air quality standards are woefully outdated, and unhealthy levels of air pollution still exist across the nation, putting the health of millions of Americans at stake,” said American Lung Association president and CEO Charles D. Connor in a statement

For those who are looking for cleaner air, Santa Fe, New Mexico is the place to be. The association deemed it the nation’s cleanest city.