Skagit County ranked among the top counties in the country in terms of clean air between 2013 and 2015, according to the American Lung Association’s 18th annual State of the Air report.
The report takes a look at particles and ozone — two widespread air pollutants that are hazardous to public health.
The report uses data collected by air quality agencies such as the Northwest Clean Air Agency, which enforces air quality regulations in Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties.
“The report shows Washington’s Clean Air Act works for air quality,” Northwest Clean Air Agency Executive Director Mark Buford said in a news release. “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.”
Skagit County was one of about 300 counties with no days of unhealthy levels of particle pollution during the time period analyzed in the report. It was one of three counties in Washington state to make that list.
Breathing particle pollution can cause a variety of heart and lung problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Particle pollution is small particles and liquid droplets from dust, smoke and chemicals.
Skagit County was also one of about 220 counties with no days of unhealthy levels of ozone pollution, and one of five counties in Washington state to make that list.
Breathing ozone can cause respiratory problems and is particularly concerning for those with asthma or other lung conditions, according to the EPA. It is created when nitrogen oxides react with volatile organic compounds that are emitted from industrial facilities, electric utilities and vehicles.
Particles and ozone are two of six air pollutants regulated to EPA standards under the federal Clean Air Act. The others are carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead.
In addition to ozone and particles, the Northwest Clean Air Agency monitors for sulfur dioxide on March Point, the location of two oil refineries that are the largest emissions sources in the county.
Air quality there and throughout the county has remained good based on federal standards, according to air agency data. That means air pollution is minimal and there is little or no public health risk.