Air quality is improving slightly in the Ohio Valley.
A report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association finds that particle pollution levels in a three-county area near Wheeling have dropped measurably since last year's report.
Ohio County was listed among the nation's "Cleanest Counties for Short-term Particle Pollution," along with five other counties in the Mountain State.
Both Ohio and Marshall Counties showed improvement in their annual particle pollution areas, but the Wheeling area only ranked slightly better overall, improving to the 22nd worst city in the nation for particle pollutants, after being ranked 20th worst in the 2012 report.
Marshall County received a failing grade this year after it passed in 2012 because the air quality standard has been made more protective of public health. However, Marshall County did improve from a "C" to a "B' grade for daily particle pollution, what researchers are calling a significant improvement.
Even though it improved regarding particle pollution, Ohio County experienced more days of smog in the past year. The county also received an "A" grade regarding daily particle pollution, with zero unhealthy air days.
The report found that levels of ozone, one of the most widespread air pollutants, worsened in Ohio County. Ozone is created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. It can irritate the lungs when inhaled and can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and has been linked to premature death.
Deb Brown, CEO of the American Lung Associated of the Mid-Atlantic said, "The air in the Wheeling region is certainly cleaner than when we started the ‘State of the Air' report 14 years ago. Even though the Wheeling region experienced an increase in unhealthy days of high ozone, the air quality is still better compared to a decade ago. But the work is not done, and we must set stronger health standards for pollutants and clean up sources of pollution in the Wheeling region to protect the health of our citizens."
Air quality is improving in the eastern part of the United States as a result of emissions reductions from coal-fired power plants and the transition to cleaner diesel fuels and engines.
The Lung Association credits new guidelines by the Environmental Protection Agency for a new, national air quality standard. They call on Congress to ensure that the provisions are enforced, and to make sure the EPA gets proper funding.
Major air pollution sources, include gasoline and vehicles continue to need improvement, but will drastically cut both ozone and particle pollution.
Air pollution can affect anyone, but some groups are at a greater risk, including: infants, children, older adults, anyone with lung diseases like asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works or exercises outdoors.
You can learn more about this report by visiting: www.stateoftheair.org.