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Rogue Valley Air Pollution Ranked With Some Of The Country's Worst

Driving into Ashland, Oregon, the hills are shrouded in wildfire smoke.

Jes Burns, OPB/EarthFix

A file photo of driving into Ashland during a recent summer of wildfire smoke.

Respiratory health can take a hit during wildfire season in the Rogue Valley. A recent report shows that the region’s air quality is some of the worst in the nation.

In the American Lung Association’s 2021 “State of the Air” report, Jackson County was ranked seventh in the nation for worst particle pollution. Medford and Grants Pass were ranked as the fifth most particle-polluted cities, just one spot above Los Angeles.

Carrie Nyssen is with the American Lung Association. She says wildfires are one of the biggest threats to clean air in the region.

“The common pollutant that we have in the Pacific Northwest is particle pollution," says Nyssen. "We know that one of the largest contributors we have to the summertime air quality is wood fire smoke. And that’s certainly indicated in this year’s report by the number of counties in Oregon that received a failing grade.”

Most particle pollution comes from wood fires, which can create particles small enough to breathe in and go into the bloodstream through the lungs.

Nyssen also says the report highlights how global warming causes a web of natural disasters in the region.

“We know with our fire seasons starting earlier, lasting longer, they’re burning more acres and increasing in intensity," she said. "We’re likely to see increases in particle pollution during the summer months.”

Nyssen says she recommends people monitor the air quality around them with easily obtainable free apps and protect those more vulnerable to pollution, like children and the elderly.