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Local air quality gets high marks in yearly national report

Apr. 18, 2017

Air quality in Whatcom and Skagit counties, along with Bellingham, ranks among the country’s cleanest in terms of ozone and fine-particle pollution, according to a new national report.

The American Lung Association released its 18th annual State of the Air report, a nationwide look at particle and ozone pollution – two widespread air pollutants that are dangerous to public health. The report uses data from official air quality monitors submitted by air quality agencies and estimates respiratory disease rates to provide a comparative picture of risks to people’s health.

Among the highlights:

  • Bellingham ranked among the top 23 cleanest cities for ozone and short-term particle pollution.
  • Skagit and Whatcom counties are on the cleanest counties list for both short-term particle and ozone pollution.

The report does not include NWCAA data from Island County and other area cities. NWCAA data shows good air quality in those areas, too.

“The report shows Washington’s Clean Air Act works for air quality. It works for people’s health in local communities. And it works for local businesses,” said Mark Buford, executive director of the Northwest Clean Air Agency.

“But this is no time to step back and be satisfied. More work remains to be done on issues such as wood smoke, industrial emissions and people’s exposure to other air pollutants,” he noted.

The ALA report is a testament to efforts to people and businesses in NWCAA’s jurisdiction to improve and protect air quality according to clean air standards established under state and national legislation. This year marks the 50th year of Washington’s Clean Air Act. The law’s creation in 1967 was the catalyst for forming the Northwest Clean Air Agency that same year.

“Air quality matters to public health, and in Northwest Washington, clean air is a key part of the quality of life that we enjoy. At NWCAA, we will continue using science to make sure our air stays clean to support healthy communities and a healthy economy. We’ve been doing it for 50 years,” Buford said.

ALA’s report details health risks caused by air pollution. Communities in NWCAA’s jurisdiction, like other communities around the nation, are home to people who suffer from asthma, COPD, and other cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

The report does have some limitations and does not show all the information NWCAA collects. ALA looked at two pollutants that are prevalent and problematic across the country: ozone and particulate. NWCAA monitors for particulate, ozone and sulfur dioxide, depending on the potential sources of air pollution nearby.

If you want to take a closer look at your local air quality, NWCAA has seven air quality monitoring locations in Island, Skagit and Whatcom counties. Go to the air quality center on our website,, to see real-time air quality gauges and data trends.

On the air quality center, you will also see data that some large industries must provide to NWCAA.

NWCAA is responsible for enforcing federal, state and local air quality regulations in Island, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. In addition to permitting and regulating industrial sources of air pollution, the agency provides services and information related to asbestos, indoor air quality, outdoor burning, woodstoves and fireplaces. More information about the agency is available at