The last four posts have looked at air quality data for 20 Missouri counties for the years 2003-2013, plus 1983 and 1993 for a longer term perspective. They clearly show that Missouri has made dramatic progress in improving its air quality, but that more work remains to be done.
Most Missouri counties never had > 20% of unhealthy air days, only four did. Three of them, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and Iron County, have cut the number to less than a quarter of its maximum value. The other, Jefferson County, has cut the number of unhealthy air days by more than half. The county with the highest percentage of unhealthy air days in 2013 was Jackson County, the location of Kansas City, at 11%. Across the state, in all of the regions I studied, the percentage of unhealthy air days is down.
In two of the three regions I studied, the Mississippi Region and the Other Region, the number of good air days is up significantly. Only in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Region has the percentage of good air days declined. It would be really interesting to know why unhealthy air days have declined in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Region, yet good air days have also declined.
A soapbox moment:
I regard good air to breath as a basic human right. It goes right in there with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” How can you live, be free, and pursue happiness if you don’t have good air to breathe? I very well understand that our air will never be pristine, for there are too many natural phenomena that put gases and particulates into it (like forest fires and wind-blown dust). But none of us should have to live with asthma or chronic lung disease simply because others of us pollute and refuse to clean up our act.
If one takes a very long term perspective, it must be acknowledged that air pollution was not monitored reliably prior to the 1980s. However, the photos from Black Tuesday in 1939 show that St. Louis, at least, has come a very long way indeed. That is very good news for us all. The success our nation has achieved improving local air quality and background air pollution offer hope that we can successfully address other important environmental problems, if only we will.
End of soapbox moment.
The data reviewed in this post comes from the previous four posts in this blog, Update on Missouri Air Quality, Air Quality Improves in 2013, Unhealthy Air Days Down from 2012, and Ozone and PM2.5 Are Our Most Important Air Pollutants