South Florida area air quality gets an 'A' from American Lung Association

Posted 4/28/23

One of the best parts of living in South Florida is great weather we get to experience most months out of the year. …

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South Florida area air quality gets an 'A' from American Lung Association

One of the best parts of living in South Florida is great weather we get to experience most months out of the year. With all of the natural resources in our backyard, it’s good to know that once again, our local air quality ranks at the top of the best air quality in Florida. This is great news, not only for those who spend time outdoors, but also for those who may have had questions about how our air compares to other areas in the state.
The American Lung Association released its State of the Air Report for 2023 on April 26 giving the state of Florida an overall “Passing” rating and Palm Beach County an “A.”  Using data from 2019-2021 for both ozone pollution and particle pollution reported by Florida to the U.S. EPA, Palm Beach County received an “A” for both Ozone and Particle Pollution, which means our county experienced ZERO days in the unhealthy range for either pollutant.  The air quality levels reviewed were 24 hour-average and annual average reports registered with U.S. EPA, as is required under EPA air quality monitoring protocols.
This report again provides direct evidence to disprove claims from some activist groups and media reports that agricultural practices such as sugarcane burning may be contributing to impaired air quality.  It provides a reputable, independent look at the science and air quality data that shows that we do not have air quality concerns in South Florida at all. There may be momentary spikes due to different types of events like wildfires and Sahara Dust, but overall, our air is clean and safe for all types of individuals—according to all manner of air quality experts.  These experts have decades of data and science showing there are a large number of sources of air emissions that may impact our local air, but overall it’s quality remains at good, safe levels for residents.
Palm Beach County was one of 10 Florida counties scoring an “A” for low Particle Pollution, with the state’s lowest “Design Value” of 6.8 ug/M3.  For comparison, the next lowest “A” graded county was Seminole county at 7.4 ug/M3.  (Values based on the PM2.5 air quality concentration level in micrograms per cubic meter of air).  Our county was one of 26 that received the top grade for ozone.
Counties that do not monitor air quality for ozone or particulate matter were not included in this report.   
A little understood contributor to air quality concerns are seasonal events such as Saharan Dust. While we generally hear about Saharan dust during the summer months when dense dust contributes to stifling heat waves, our area has been under the influence of finer particles of this dust for several weeks.  While it contributes to fluctuating elevated PM2.5 levels in the “Good” air quality range this time of year, it is not the only influence on south Florida air quality.  During the dry months of February, March and April, local dust sources also contribute to PM2.5 air quality in south Florida.  Paved and unpaved roads, vehicle emissions and travel on high-traffic-volume roadways, and disturbance of exposed soils during wind events, drought conditions, and construction and agricultural land preparation activities can impact air quality.  Smoke from wildfires, prescription burns, silvicultural land management burns, agricultural burns, residential and commercial burns, fireworks smoke and backyard barbeque/grilling smoke may also influence PM2.5 air quality under the right meteorological conditions.  That said, we still have clean air.
Another independent source for air quality information is the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  According to its website: “Thanks to a statewide effort, emissions in Florida continue to decrease and are now the lowest they have been on record. The state of Florida has one of the best outdoor air quality monitoring networks in the country, enabling the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to provide accurate and timely data to the state’s residents and visitors”.
The flat geography and free flowing coastal breezes in the state of Florida enable the cleansing of pollutants from our air that other areas of the country are challenged with, and the interior of our state is mostly filled with green good crops that also cleanse our air.
This report from the American Lung Association is the latest in a series of mounting evidence that South Florida’s air quality is excellent. Other sources such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as well as government air quality monitors maintained by the Florida Department of Health  have confirmed this as well.
This good news about our air quality comes at a time when Americans are more aware of their environmental surroundings than ever before. We are fortunate to live in a place that not only has a great climate, but also good air quality that helps ensure we are living healthier lives.
Mr. Miller is an air quality expert who retired after a 35-year career at the Florida Department of Health - Palm Beach County, Environmental Health Program, Air and Solid Waste.  He established an ambient and indoor air quality consulting company in 2016, Miller Environmental Solutions, offering environmental insight to residential, commercial, governmental and agricultural interests in Palm Beach County.
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