Medford, Grants Pass top national charts for bad air quality

MEDFORD, Ore.– Two cities, Medford and Grants Pass, are topping the charts in a recent report for having some of the worst air quality in the nation and in the state.

The study came from the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” 2019 – an annual report done for the last 20 years. The report measures air pollution data from federal, state and local governments and breaks up the data into three forms of pollution: ozone, annual particle pollution, and 24-hour particle pollution.

The report shows that from 2015-2017 more cities across the U.S. have seen an increase in the number of days of heavy particle pollution with Medford and Grants Pass being no exception. Both cities ranked 10th in the nation for annual particle pollution and 17th for 24-hour particle pollution.

However, the report acknowledges that many of the days where high particulates of pollution were found were due to wildfires.

“The reason the air quality in the Rogue Valley would be ranked as poor as measured by fine particulate pollution is because of wildfire season,” said Dr. Kevin Parks, an allergist with the Allergy and Asthma Center for Southern Oregon in Medford.

Dr. Parks says that during the winter a slight inversion layer during the coldest months can cause an accumulation of particulate pollution on the valley floor but for the most part the Rogue Valley has very clean air.

“Thankfully in the Rogue Valley, we have enough weather systems that move through that, aside from wildfire season, even on days when there is significant fine particulate pollution it doesn’t usually last long,” he said.

The report also highlights the impact wildfires can have on this data citing Santa Barbara and Santa Maria in California as, at one point, two of the cleanest cities in the country for 24-hour particulate pollution. Now, the cities are tied for 17th with Medford and Grants Pass.

With wildfire season returning to southern Oregon in the next couple months, local doctors like Dr. Parks are warning anyone with cardiovascular issues to be careful. It’s highly suggested you purchase or obtain N-95 masks if you need to go outside but on heavily polluted days, you should try to stay indoors. But Dr. Parks says one of the best solutions is to leave and find clean air.

“It really is effective,” said Dr. Parks. “Just a short holiday away from the Rogue Valley often helps.”




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