Minnesota received its air quality report card from the American Lung Association on Thursday, and though the state earned higher grades for having fewer high ozone days, seven metro counties received poor grades for high particle pollution last year, with Ramsey County earning an F.
Of the seven Minnesota counties graded on particulate pollution, St. Louis County received the best grade in the state for high-particle pollution days -- a B. Dakota, Hennepin, Olmsted and Scott counties all earned C grades.
Ramsey County, however, earned an F grade just two years after it earned a C in 2010. Stearns County also dropped from a B to a C grade in 2012.
The report authors say slumping scores in particle pollution are concerning, since high levels can lead to early death, heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits for asthma sufferers and others with chronic respiratory ailments and cardiovascular disease.
Residents can play a big role in affecting air pollution, and can reduce the amount of pollution particles by decreasing energy use at home, avoiding recreational fires and delaying mowing lawns on air quality alert days.
Tailpipe emissions are the largest source of air pollution in Minnesota, so residents can also help lower particle pollution by car pooling or taking advantage of mass transit options.
The American Lung Association also has an online resource detailing do-it-yourself conservation tips that can help reduce air pollution.
"The solutions today are not going to be the same ones used in the past," says David Thornton of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. "It's an opportunity to say that the greatest potential for future air pollution reductions will be from consumers, drivers and small business. Right now business, government, and nonprofit leaders are talking about these solutions and the way forward to protecting clean air in Minnesota."
The following counties earned A grades for o-zone:
Crow Wing County earned a B for o-zone.
The State of the Air Report covers 18 counties that have permanent air quality monitors, which are maintained and monitored by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The grades are determined by using a weighted average of the previous three years of data, which are verified by the EPA. The full report can be found here.
Overall, the state earned improved grades for having fewer and less severe high ozone days, but the high-particle pollution days" dragged down grades for many metro counties.
Duluth was one of five municipal areas ranked in a national report as a "cleanest city," both for ozone and year-round particle pollution.