Milwaukee County has unhealthy levels of smog, according to the American Lung Association's newly released annual State of the Air report.
Milwaukee County received an "F" when it comes to ozone pollution (smog) and a "C" for short term particle pollution (soot).
Milwaukee County has too many high ozone days, says Dona Wininsky, the director of public policy and communications for the American Lung Association’s Wisconsin chapter. But she says ozone is always an issue along Lake Michigan, and the odorless, colorless pollutant can impact your health.
"It burns the inside of your lung tissue," Wininsky says. "It is much like getting a sunburn on your lungs and it can have short-term effects and long-term effects."
There is good news, though: the report found Milwaukee County had its best grade ever for particle pollution, Wininsky says.
Northwestern and central Wisconsin received much higher grades than the Milwaukee area. Ashland always makes the top 25 list of cleanest cities, Wininsky says.
Compared to 15 years ago when the first report was released, Wisconsin's air quality has dramatically improved.
“If you were to look at the very first year’s report and see how many times those federal air quality standards had been violated, it's double digits and now we are down to single digits," Wininsky says. "So the message of the report overall is that the provisions in the federal Clean Air Act are doing what they’re supposed to be doing; they’re bringing air pollution levels down, statewide, regardless of where you are."
Although Wininsky says she's pleased that Wisconsin is fairing far better than it did 15 years ago, she says the Lung Association believes federal standards should be more stringent.
The report found that 47 percent of the nation live in areas where pollution levels are dangerous to one's health. Wininsky says it's the young, the elderly and people with existing lung or heart conditions who are at greatest risk - especially in low income areas where you are more likely to find power plants and industry.