Report gives local air an "F"

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Many Illinois counties, including some in Central Illinois, received failing grades for air quality in a recent report from the American Lung Association.

In the ALA’s State of the Air report released this month, Sangamon and Macon Counties received “F” grades, along with Cook County in the Chicago area and St. Clair County near St. Louis. Champaign County received a “D” grade in the same report. The grades were based on levels of ozone pollution in the counties over time.

“Ozone pollution is a gaseous compound that can penetrate very deeply into your lungs,” explained Michael Kolleng of the American Lung Association in Illinois during a Friday phone conversation. “What it does is it binds to the tissues of your throat, tissues of your lungs, and it causes inflammation and discomfort, and over long periods of time can cause permanent damage.”

Ozone can develop from the exhaust of automobiles, coal fired power plants and other industrial activity, according to the ALA. Despite the failing grades, Kolleng explained the U.S. and Illinois are reducing pollution over time.

“The general trend of Illinois, as it is in the country, is that we are seeing that slow development,” Kolleng said. “Twenty, thirty years ago, these counties would be in hard “F” territory by our grading system, and now we’re starting to see that people are on the cusp of that “F” grade.”

The State of the Air report also collected data from states on particulate air pollution, but Kolleng said reliable data was not available for Illinois because of an error in methodology. To view the report, click here.

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