MORPC Releases End-of-Season Report on Central Ohio Air Quality

Wildfire smoke worsened air quality in 2023 compared to previous years

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) has released its annual Air Quality Report. The report summarizes air quality data from November 2022 to October 2023, kicking off this year’s ozone monitoring season. While monitoring for PM2.5 is year-round, ozone monitoring season occurs March 1 – October 31 because it forms from a chemical reaction between emissions and sunlight.

The report shows that air quality progress continues, while challenges remain. MORPC uses the national Air Quality Index (AQI) to communicate about air quality and the associated health effects. For the 2022-23 season, most days in Central Ohio were in the Good Air Quality Index (AQI) category, but AQI levels were worse when compared to the 2021-22 season due to ozone development, wildfire smoke, weather conditions, and other factors.

Of the 11 total Air Quality Alerts issued in the 2022-23 season, PM2.5 , or fine particle pollution made up of solid or liquid droplets that can get into the lungs and bloodstream, was the primary pollutant on nine occasions due to long-range transport of wildfire smoke. This resulted in Central Ohio’s first Unhealthy PM2.5 AQI day since August 14, 2003, meaning pollution levels were high enough for members of the general public to experience health effects, with potentially more severe effects for sensitive groups.

“As a whole, air quality in Central Ohio continues to show positive trends over the long term, despite inevitable external factors like last summer’s wildfires in Canada. Over the past 30 years, the number of high ozone days (above 70 ppb for the daily maximum eight-hour average) has declined across Ohio and neighboring states, with the most notable decrease in high ozone days occurring after 2012. This decline has been driven mostly by emissions reductions."

MORPC is part of a network of agencies across the country that issues daily air quality forecasts and notifies the public when ground-level ozone and particle pollution levels are forecasted to be unhealthy for sensitive groups (USG) or higher on the AQI through Air Quality Alerts. On days with an Air Quality Alert, children, older adults, and those with lung illnesses, such as asthma, can experience symptoms like shortness of breath and wheezing.

“Air quality is critical to the daily quality of life of our residents. By signing up for Air Quality Alerts, residents can take action to protect their health as temperatures and pollution levels rise. Sensitive groups are more likely to suffer an increase in the number of severity of symptoms during an Air Quality Alert and are urged to limit prolonged outdoor exertion to decrease the potential for health problems.”

Residents can also act by utilizing programs, such as MORPC’s Gohio Commute program – that encourage ridesharing, driving electric vehicles, riding transit, biking, and walking – which help in keeping harmful pollutants out of the air.

To view the full report click here, and to learn more information about  ozone and particulate matter visit MORPC’s Air Quality Program page. Sign up for air quality alerts here. To receive notifications visit Alert Franklin County.

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Níel Jurist

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Melissa Rapp

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