It was impossible to ignore the air quality in Philadelphia earlier this month of June. It was nearly impossible to see the iconic skyline and for many people, just breathing while outside was a struggle. The fact that wildfires all the way north in Canada were so greatly affecting Philadelphians felt like a rare and extreme occurrence to many. But- even outside of the wildfires- Philadelphia struggles with air quality and has experienced a rollercoaster of quality over recent years.
While the week of air quality issues from the wildfires marked our worst air quality since 2008, Philadelphia still struggled with air quality before- and will continue to as the air “clears”. The Philadelphia region dropped off the 25 worst metro areas for ozone smog in 2019, and 2017-2019 had the fewest unhealthy high-ozone days per year in over two decades. However, the ALA (American Lung Association) still gives the Philadelphia-Reading-Camden area a “failing” grade for ozone pollution.
According to the EPA, ozone exposure can cause coughing and sore or scratchy throats, make it more difficult to breathe deeply and vigorously, cause pain when taking a deep breath, inflame and damage your airways, make the lungs more susceptible to infection, aggravate lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, and increase the frequency of asthma attacks.