Trouble in the Air: Las Vegas’ health at risk with 145 dirty air days in 2016

For Immediate Release

Contact: Elizabeth Leape, eleape@environmentamerica.org, (202) 683-1250 x370

As the Trump administration considers weakening federal air quality and global warming emissions standards, air pollution remains a threat to public health. According to a new report by Environment Nevada Research & Policy Center, 2.1 million people in the Las Vegas metropolitan area experienced 145 days of degraded air quality in 2016, increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.

“All Nevada residents should be able to breathe clean air. Even one day with polluted air is too many,” said Elizabeth Leape, Campaign Coordinator with Environment Nevada Research & Policy Center. “To make dirty air days a thing of the past, we need to strengthen existing air quality protections and reduce future air pollution threats from global warming.”

For the report, Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathe Polluted Air, Environment Nevada Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and U.S. PIRG Education Fund reviewed Environmental Protection Agency records of air pollution levels across the country, focusing on smog and particulate pollution – harmful pollutants that come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline and natural gas.

“Higher pollution levels can cause both immediate and long-term respiratory problems, especially in susceptible individuals,” said Dr. Joel Katz, an allergist at the Allergy and Asthma Center in Las Vegas. “We definitely see an increase in asthma exacerbations on high pollution days.”

“There's no safe level of exposure to smog and particulate pollution,” said Elizabeth Ridlington, Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. "Even low levels of smog and particulate pollution are bad for health and can increase deaths."

These troubling findings come at a time when the Trump administration prepares to weaken the federal clean car standards, a critical program to cut global warming emissions and increase fuel efficiency. And just this week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency will review the federal ozone standard -- a standard he sued to stop when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.

The report’s authors called on the federal government to strengthen, not weaken, the clean car standards and continue to allow states to adopt stronger vehicle pollution standards. The authors also called on EPA to strengthen ozone and particulate pollution standards.

“To protect our health, we must keep cutting smog, particulate pollution and global warming pollution,” said Leape. “We must accelerate our progress, not hit the brakes on effective programs like the federal clean car standards.”