Scranton/Wilkes-Barre scores high in 2021 State of the Air report

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Today is Earth Day when we focus on preserving the planet and making our environment a healthier place to live.

Just in time, a new report is out which evaluates the air we breathe year-round.

That annual report by the American Lung Association is called “State of the Air.” This year’s report is based on air quality data from 2017, 2018 and 2019.

While some parts of Pennsylvania fared poorly, our corner of the Keystone State has something to brag about.

Did you every worry about the quality of air you’re breathing in northeastern Pennsylvania? If so, the American Lung Association says lately there’s not much to worry about.

“We’re really happy when, you know, the area has for the second year its best ever results for all three measures and that’s hard to beat,” said Kevin Stewart, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association.

You read that right. The American Lung Association’s 2021 State of the Air report measured particle pollution and ozone pollution in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area as well as the rest of the Commonwealth and country.

While 40 percent of the U.S. is breathing unhealthy air, that’s not the case in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. For the first time in the report’s history, Lackawanna County got an “A” grade for having zero days with ozone smog.

“22 years ago, this is our 22nd report, people, you know, would not have expected that to have happened but it has and it just shows that progress is possible,” Stewart said.

We reached out to the Department of Environmental Protection which stated it’s “encouraged by the continuously improving air quality conditions in the region,” including virtually nonexistent ozone pollution and particulate matter. The DEP stated it’s “a credit to the efforts of the citizens and businesses that put in place daily routines to maintain clean air,” adding the department “supports those efforts and is proud to be a partner in helping them succeed.”

While Luzerne County scored a “B” for ozone smog, it’s still the county’s best-ever grade. But Stewart cautions despite a favorable air quality ranking for the heart of northeastern Pennsylvania, more must be done to continue protecting the health of those of us who call the region home.

“Even one bad air day can be one bad air day too many especially if you are in one of the high risk groups,” he said.

While the air in northeastern Pennsylvania was evaluated as fit to breathe, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh graded poorly. You can read the full report here.

The report has seen a geographical shift nationally for the most unhealthy air. That distinction goes to the western U.S. with an increase in oil and gas production while the eastern U.S. has experienced the closure of more fossil fuel power plants. 

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