April 21, 2021

American Lung Association releases State of the Air report

Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Taos counties received “A” grades from the American Lung Association in terms of particle pollution, however ozone pollution remains a problem. Bernalillo County received an “F” for the number of high ozone days while Santa Fe County received a “C.” Data was not available to evaluate Taos County.

The American Lung Association released its 22nd annual State of the Air report today. This report is based on air quality data from 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Vegas area in New Mexico tied with Albany and Schenectady, New York, as having the second cleanest air in the country in terms of short-term particle pollution, according to the report.

Nine counties in New Mexico received grades for ozone pollution based on the number of high ozone days. Doña Ana, Lea, Eddy, San Juan and Sandoval counties received “F” grades for ozone while Rio Arriba and Valencia counties received “C” grades.

The Las Cruces and El Paso, Texas, area was ranked 13th in the country for worst air in terms of ozone. The American Lung Association evaluates this based on metropolitan statistical areas.

The only county that saw its grade change from last year’s report was Lea County, which received a “D” in the 2020 report.

Related: Report: Climate change, oil & gas emissions a bad mix for New Mexico air quality

Ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides react with sunlight. This is usually associated with the combustion of fossil fuels and can be seen as smog.

The New Mexico Environment Department’s Ozone Attainment Initiative launched in 2019 is focused on developing strategies to reduce ozone in counties that are on the verge of non-attainment for federal ozone standards. Counties that are considered non-attainment can lose federal funding for projects like roads.

The State of the Air report states that over the past five years there has been a shift in the geographic distribution of places with the worst ozone due to the increase in oil and gas production in the west and the closure of fossil fuel power plants in the east.

Both Doña Ana and Eddy counties were ranked in the top 25 counties for worst air in terms of ozone levels.

Only five counties in New Mexico were evaluated for particle pollution for this year’s report.

Doña Ana County received a “D” grade while Lea County received a “B” grade. This is a change from last year when Doña Ana County received a “C.” Lea County’s grade remained the same.