Phoenix ranks poorly for pollution

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- According to a new report by the American Lung Association, the Phoenix metro area ranked as the eighth most polluted in the country when it comes to year-round levels of particle pollution.

The same study also ranked Maricopa County among the worst in the United States when it comes to our ozone pollution levels, giving the area a grade of F.

The report evaluated data from the Environmental Protection Agency and compared 277 metropolitan areas.

Phoenix was one of just a handful of cities that actually performed more poorly than the year prior.

Local air quality experts say the report should be taken with a grain of salt.

Eric Massey, director of the Phoenix Air Quality Division, said, "98.5 percent of the time, we actually have clean air here in the Phoenix area. It's the other 1.5 percent that we need to work on."

A spokesperson for the American Lung Association of the Southwest says we still have a long way to go.

"There's still things that we need to do," Christian Stumpf said.

Stumpf points to a number of recent campaigns to reduce the pollution levels in the area, including efforts to reduce burning and campaigns calling for the increased use of public transportation.

Massey agreed, saying, "Even though we're making a lot of progress in terms of cleaning up the air, often times we're having to work a little harder to get under that limbo bar so it looks like things aren't getting better."

The study did not explore the causes of the pollution levels. Massey says Mother Nature is a big piece of the puzzle.

"There's really not a whole lot that we can do to reduce some of those giant dust storms that come through," he said.

"There's some aspects that we have to cross our fingers on," Stumpf said. "We have to hope for cooler weather."