Trouble in the Air: St. Louis health at risk with 93 dirty air days in 2016

Environment Missouri Research & Policy Center

Contact: Carlyn LeGrant, (202) 683-1250 x 356, [email protected]  

Despite improvement in recent years thanks to clean air policies, air pollution remains a threat to public health. According to a new report by Environment Missouri Research & Policy Center, 2.8 million people in the St. Louis metropolitan area experienced 93 days of degraded air quality in 2016, increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.

“All St. Louis residents should be able to breathe clean air. Even one day with polluted air is too many,” said Carlyn LeGrant, Campaign Coordinator with Environment Missouri Research & Policy Center. “To make dirty air days a thing of the past, we need to strengthen existing air quality protections and reduce future air pollution threats from global warming.”

For the report, Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathe Polluted Air, Environment Missouri Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and Missouri PIRG Education Fund reviewed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records of air pollution levels across the country, focusing on smog and particulate pollution – harmful pollutants that come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline and natural gas.

“Asthma is a serious health issue for many children in the City of St. Louis and air pollution is a well-known asthma trigger. The rates of emergency room visits for asthma in 2015, the most recent data available, were 14.76 per 1,000 residents for the City of St. Louis compared to 6.8 per 1,000 residents for the St. Louis metropolitan region and 5.34 per 1,000 residents for the State of Missouri,” said Jeanine Arrighi, Environmental Health Services Bureau Chief for the City of St. Louis Department of Health.

“There’s no safe level of exposure to smog and particulate pollution,” said Elizabeth Ridlington, Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “Even low levels of smog and particulate pollution are bad for health and can increase deaths.”

The report’s findings come as the Trump administration considers weakening federal air quality and global warming emissions standards. The authors of the report called on the federal government to strengthen, not weaken, the clean car standards and called on EPA to strengthen ozone and particulate pollution standards.

“To protect our health, we must keep cutting smog, particulate pollution and global warming emissions,” said LeGrant. “We must accelerate our progress, not hit the brakes on effective programs like the federal clean car standards.”