Chicago ranked 18th most polluted city, gets 'F' for ozone

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new report on air quality from the American Lung Association found that Chicago is 18th most polluted city in the United States for ozone pollution, a significant change when the city was ranked 22nd last year.

Increased pollution puts people at risk for asthma attacks, lung cancer, and other serious health issues. The report says the air quality is further affected by rising global temperatures, and a big part of it is due to emissions from vehicles combined with heat in 2015, 2016, 2017, three of hottest years on record.

Chicago's air quality was rated an "F" for ozone. That's not sitting well with people who want to be active outside.

"I run to stay healthy, and the air quality is kind of counteracting that I guess," Keller said.

"A lot of people compare ozone to a sunburn on the lungs," said Jill Thompson, Chicago area communications manager for the American Lung Association.

When you breathe in ozone, it irritates and inflames all of your air passageways in your nose, throat, and lungs.

"For sunburn, you can put like sunscreen on, but what can you do for your lungs? Nothing, so you just kind of have to take it," Keller said.

Breathing in ozone can have even more worrying results.

"If you have asthma, if there's a particularly bad ozone pollution day, then it could trigger an asthma attack," Keller said.

The ALA said ozone can also trigger COPD episodes and even heart attacks for people with heart disease. High ozone levels are caused by vehicle exhaust, factories, and pollution in the city reacting with the sun - and ABC7 meteorologist Larry Mowry said the breeze is a factor, too.

"If the air isn't really moving, the ozone levels can build up around the city and make the higher ozone levels much worse," Mowry said.

So solutions include driving less, carpooling more, taking public transportation, and not cutting your grass on high ozone days.

There are positives from the report as well. In the last 14 years, we've made great strides overall. In 2005, there were 38 unhealthy ozone days. Last year, we had 14. We also had the lowest levels ever of both year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution which has been linked to cancer.

You can read the full report here: https://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/
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