LANSING (WWJ) – Michigan residents continue to breathe dangerous levels of air pollution, despite positive nationwide trends toward cleaner air, according to the American Lung Association’s annual report on air quality, State of the Air 2011.

In Michigan, 14 cities remain on the national list of most polluted cities for ozone (smog) and 17 cities remain on the national list of most-polluted cities for particle pollution (soot).

Despite the continued problems, this year’s report showed that many Michigan communities have improved air quality, similar to the majority of American cities most polluted by ozone (smog) or year-round particle pollution (soot).

Michigan’s progress comes thanks to the continued cleanup of deadly pollution required by the Clean Air Act.

However, the air quality report also revealed that just over half the nation—154.5 million people—lives in areas where levels of ozone and/or particle pollution are too often dangerous to breathe.

“Dangerous levels of smog and particle pollution continue to threaten our communities. When we look at results across the country, we see that the Clean Air Act works, and we need to keep it strong,” Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Michigan (ALAM), said in a release.

According to the report, all metro areas in the list of the 25 cities most polluted by ozone showed improvement over the previous report, and 15 of those cities experienced the lowest levels yet.

All but two of the 25 cities most polluted with year-round particle pollution improved over last year’s report. However, only 11 cities among those most polluted by short-term spikes in particle pollution experienced improvement.

For the monitoring area including Detroit, Warren and Flint, the pollution problem showed up most in Wayne County.

In 2011, Wayne County passed for annual particle pollution – an improvement from 2010 when it failed in this category.

Despite getting a passing grade for year-round particle pollution, Wayne County still had levels considered unhealthy by the American Lung Association and other public health groups and medical societies.

“Particle pollution kills,” Mary Scoblic, an RN, MN and longtime board member of ALAM, said in a release. “When you breathe these microscopic particles, you are inhaling a noxious mix of chemicals, metals, acid aerosols, ash, soot, and others from diesel exhaust and other sources. It is as toxic as it sounds and can lead to early death, asthma exacerbation, heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits in substantial numbers.”

The Grand Rapids metropolitan area, including Muskegon and Holland, tied for 43rd worst in the nation for ozone pollution out of 228 metro areas.

In other parts of the state, Detroit-Warren-Flint tied for 48th; Niles-Benton Harbor tied for 83rd; Kalamazoo-Portage tied for 115th; Lansing-East Lansing-Owosso tied for 151st. 

Ozone is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources.  When ozone is inhaled, it irritates the lungs. It can cause immediate health problems and continue days later. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and even premature death.

The State of the Air 2011 report grades cities and counties based, in part, on the color-coded Air Quality Index developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help alert the public to daily unhealthy air conditions.

The 12th annual release of the Lung Association’s report uses the most recent EPA data collected from 2007 through 2009 from official monitors for ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread types of air pollution.

Counties are graded for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels. The report also uses EPA’s calculations for year-round particle levels. Annual ozone levels are ranked on a pass/fail system.

To find out how your county ranked, click here to read Michigan’s State of the Air Report Card

For more information about the State of the Air 2011 report, visit


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