On this year's air pollution report card, York County received two big, fat F's — again.

The county earned the dismal marks for short-term particle pollution — made up of soot, dust and aerosols — and ozone pollution, or smog, on the 15th annual "State of the Air" report, released Tuesday by the American Lung Association.

But the county did earn a passing grade for year-round particle pollution, meeting the national air quality standard for that pollutant measure. The report uses air pollution data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency for 2010 through 2012.

York received the same grades last year but improved slightly in the short-term particle pollution category and got worse in terms of smog pollution, with more unhealthy days on average, according to the report.

Despite all this, York's air is markedly cleaner than it was after the first report 15 years ago, according to a news release.

Around the region: York was analyzed as part of the Harrisburg-York-Lebanon metro area, which is also made up of Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon and Perry counties.

The reporting area is new this year and combines the previous Harrisburg-Carlisle-Lebanon and York-Hanover-Gettysburg metro areas.

Out of 217 metro areas analyzed in the report, the region ranked as the 33rd most polluted in the nation regarding year-round particle pollution. That's worse than the rankings of 50th and 39th recorded by York and Harrisburg, respectively, in last year's report.


For smog pollution, the area tied for 64th worst in the country. Last year's report ranked York 68th worst and Harrisburg 80th worst.

And although the results for short-term particle pollution were the best ever recorded, the combined metro score made it the 18th worst in the country. York was 26th worst and Harrisburg was 19th worst in last year's report.

It's hard to say what contributes to the region's pollution, but its location near Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and the Ohio River Valley is likely a factor, said Kevin Stewart, the Mid-Atlantic association's director of environmental health.

"You don't have clean air to work with," he said.

Health impact: More than 147.6 million people — 47 percent of the nation's population — live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe, according to the association.

Both particle and smog pollution can cause serious health problems, Stewart said.

Smog is a powerful respiratory irritant that sears lung tissues and can affect even healthy people's ability to breathe, he said. And particle pollution can enter the bloodstream and lead to heart attack and even death in people with heart disease, he said.

But year-round particle pollution levels have shown a nationwide decline as a result of the Clean Air Act, according to the release. The federal law, designed to control air pollution, was introduced in 1963 and amended several times.

The association wants to keep the law strong so that we have good air-quality standards, Stewart said, but average people can help improve the problem, too.

People can tell their lawmakers in Congress that air quality is important to them, as well as have a direct impact by driving less, using less electricity and refraining from burning wood and trash, he said.

The American Lung Association aims to improve lung health through research, education and advocacy. Read the full "State of the Air" report at www.stateoftheair.org.

— Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.