Maui Time

American Lung Association says Maui and Oahu have nation’s cleanest air

Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina (reported as one city) ranks as the number four cleanest city in the nation for year-round particle pollution, according to The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2018 report. The Maui “city” was also ranked as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution.

The ALA’s report reveals that Hawaii continues to have some of the best air quality in the nation. The City of Honolulu is recognized as one of the cleanest cities in the United States; it ranked on all three of the report’s lists: cleanest cities, cleanest cities for ozone pollution (zero unhealthy air days) all counties, and cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution. Honolulu also landed near the top the cleanest city for year-round particle pollution list, ranked at number two.

“While many of us have healthy air to breathe in Hawaii, many in our nation are not so fortunate,” said Kahala Howser, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Hawaii. “More than four in 10 Americans–133.9 million–live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution, where their health is at risk.”

He also said unhealthful levels of pollution, such as vog, put our communities at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and greater difficulty breathing for those living with a lung disease like COPD; Hawaii County received a D in this year’s report for particle pollution, due to vog, defined as air pollution resulting when sulfur dioxide and other gases and particles from volcano eruptions react with oxygen and moisture in sunlight. Unpredictable weather conditions make it challenging to provide guidance on protecting communities from vog. The American Lung Association and the Department of Health advise Hawaii Island residents and visitors to get advice and updates from the County of Hawaii.

Each year the State of the Air report provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants: ozone pollution, also known as smog; and particle pollution, also called soot. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. The trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2014-2016, reflect the ongoing challenges to reduce each pollutant in the changing political and outdoor climate.

“We can and should do more to protect our public health,” said Howser. “The Lung Association urges our members of Congress to defend and strengthen the Clean Air Act. We also call on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement and enforce current laws instead of removing major safeguards like the Clean Power Plan and cleaner cars, both steps that help us fight climate change and reduce air pollution.”

The top cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution

  1. Cheyenne, WY
  2. Honolulu, HI
  3. Casper, WY
  4. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI

For more information about Hawaii’s local air quality data and grades for each county and metropolitan area, visit Stateoftheair.org.

Photo: Kevin McGill/Flickr