MYNORTHWEST WEATHER

Brace yourself for weeks of poor air quality in 2024, Seattle residents

Apr 16, 2024, 3:29 PM | Updated: Apr 17, 2024, 12:32 pm

Photo: Smoke from wildfires fills the air along Alaskan Way on September 12, 2020 in Seattle, Washi...

Smoke from wildfires fills the air along Alaskan Way on September 12, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson, Getty Images)

(Photo by Lindsey Wasson, Getty Images)

Bad air quality will plague the Seattle area for three weeks this year, IQAir told KIRO Newsradio Monday. And the trend is projected to get worse in the coming decades.

Residents are familiar with wildfire smoke, but fossil fuels are the number one contributor to air pollution, explained IQAir’s CEO Glory Dolphin Hammes.

She said Seattle has 10% more air pollution than most American cities of its size because of industry sources and the transportation corridor.

Hammes also said fuel-powered vehicles, industry landscaping equipment and big fireworks shows are all large polluters.

Looking more at wildfires

Wildfires will continue to be a major pollution factor, Hammes added. She noted wildfires are becoming more common and they are lasting longer. She said the trend has a lot to do with climate change.

Past coverage: 11 Washington counties receive ‘F’ grades for air quality

However, IQAir reported Seattle had cleaner air last year than the year before.

The West Coast experienced a less severe wildfire season in 2023, IQAir’s 2023 World Air Quality Report reports. That is due to, in part, to “the implementation of aggressive mitigation strategies, including the utilization of technology for early warning systems and the allocation of additional ground resources to enable earlier deployments.” (Readers can view a PDF of the 2023 report here.)

Seattle saw a 36% drop in annual average PM2.5 levels. Portland, Oregon saw an even higher drop at 37%. The PM2.5 is one of six common pollutants monitored and regulated by environmental agencies worldwide due to the significant impacts to human health and the environment, IQAir stated. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that PM2.5 particles pose the greatest risk to health.

When air quality is unhealthy, IQAir recommends wearing a mask outside and inside, running an air purifier, closing windows to avoid outdoor air and reducing outdoor exercise.

Popular holidays, other nations big contributors to bad air quality

New Year’s and the Fourth of July are “air pollution triggering events that last for several days and are very impactful in terms of people that suffer from respiratory disease,” she explained.

For the second year in a row, IQAir reported Columbus, Ohio, as the most polluted big city in America. While Las Vegas had the cleanest air of any major city in the U.S.

Beloit, Wisconsin, is listed as the most polluted city of any size in the U.S.

More climate coverage: Are we going nuts or is it the environment?

But even if Americans cut back on fossil fuels, Hammes said bad air would still blow in, as there are a growing number of companies in rich countries setting up factories with weaker environmental laws.

“Other countries that are bearing more of the economic load and production, they are producing more air pollution and so it still is a global problem,” she explained.

IQAir brands itself as a technology company based in Switzerland that “empowers individuals, organizations and governments to improve air quality through information and collaboration.” Their partners include the United Nations and Greenpeace.

To track the air quality where you live, visit IQAir’s website.

Contributing: Diane Duthweiler, KIRO Newsradio; Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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Brace yourself for weeks of poor air quality in 2024, Seattle residents