Lane County Receives Contradictory Grades For Air Quality

Apr 20, 2016

There’s good news and bad news about Lane County’s Air Quality from a recent American Lung Association report. The area gets an “A” for its low ozone levels. But too much wood smoke makes the air unhealthy some of the year.

Credit Anni Katz

Lane County received an “F” grade for high levels of particulate matter such as dust, soot, or smoke, in the air.

Jo Niehaus is with the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency. She says Oakridge is the only city in Lane County that does not meet federal air quality standards.

Niehaus: “They get these really high level days when there are cold inversion days during the winter time and lots of people are using their wood burning heating devices inside their homes and either burning wet wood or closing their damps. What that does is it creates lots of smoke.”

Niehaus says particles from smoke can lodge in people’s lungs and cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems. She says Oakridge’s levels have improved, and 2015 was its cleanest year on record. The report measured years 2012 through 2014.  

The “A” grade is for low levels of ozone, which is smog caused by fossil fuels. Low ozone means less risk for those with asthma and heart or lung conditions.