Medford-Grants Pass area 8th in nation for worst annual air pollution

SOUTHERN OREGON – The American Lung Association released the new State of the Air report, showing Medford as one of the top ten worst areas in the nation for year-round pollution.

The 2024 State of the Air report was published this week, breaking down the best and worst places for air quality in the nation between 2020 and 2022.

The Medford-Grants Pass area failed in many of the categories.

“We’re not making those strides so much in particle pollution,” said American Lung Association’s senior director of advocacy Carrie Nyssen.

It ranked eighth in the nation for worst annual air quality out of the 204 metropolitan areas included in the study.

Nyssen says there is a good reason for this.

“It’s a community that sees a lot of wildfire smoke during the summer,” she explained. “That causes really poor air quality that can affect everyone’s health.”

The report claims right now, there are over 300,000 people at risk due to particle pollution in the Medford-Grants Pass area alone. The largest groups at-risk are adults 65 or older, children under 18, and people of color.

“They can cause wheezing, they can cause coughing, they can exacerbate asthma attacks, they can do worsening of COPD, they can cause preterm births, they actually can cause lung cancer, and premature death,” Nyssen said.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality says it has seen the effects of wildfire smoke first hand.

“We’re getting more smoke each summer from wildfires and we are getting more intense smoke when we do get it,” said DEQ’s public affairs specialist Dylan Darling.

Darling says DEQ has been working closely with communities to come up with response plans to poor air quality days.

“The community smoke response plan in the Ashland area is designed to just get information out,” Darling said. “Kind of give a road map of how best to give information out when it comes to smoke produced by a prescribed fire and wildfire.”

Nyssen adds that it’s not just wildfire smoke and there are things you can do to help improve particle pollution for our area.

“Anything that uses less energy is going to be helpful,” she said. “We need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. So moving to cleaner fuels, moving to cleaner vehicles.”

The American Lung Association says anyone with questions or concerns about lung health can call their help line at 1-800-LUNG-USA

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Taylar Ansures is a producer and reporter for NBC5 News. Taylar is from Redding, California and went to California State University, Chico. After graduating, she joined KRCR News Channel 7 in Redding as a morning producer. She moved to Southern Oregon in 2022 to be closer to family and became KTVL News 10’s digital producer. Taylar is currently finishing her Master's Degree in Professional Creative Writing through the University of Denver. In her free time, Taylar frequents independent bookstores and explores hiking trails across Southern Oregon and Northern California.
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