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Boulder County receives ‘F’ grade for ozone in air quality report

The county’s high number of ozone days are putting thousands at risk, according to the American Lung Association.
Hazy Front Range From Golden Ponds (1 of 1)
The Front Range shrouded in haze, as seen from Longmont's Golden Ponds Park.

Boulder County received an “F” grade for ozone pollution in a new air quality report by the American Lung Association.

The county is among nearly a dozen in Colorado to receive the lowest letter grade for their high number of alert days for ozone, which is created by chemicals that come from vehicles, factories and other sources of pollution. High levels of ozone can cause shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing.

“If you live in Boulder County, the air you breathe may put your health at risk,” the report read. “Air pollution is a serious health threat. It can trigger asthma attacks, harm lung development in children, and even be deadly.”

More than 3,900 children in Boulder County have asthma and are at risk, according to Lung Association researchers, who used federal data to compile their findings.

The county also received an “F” grade for 24-hour particle pollution — a measure of short-term spikes in poor air quality. Boulder and Denver counties were ranked the worst for short-term particle pollution in Colorado. 

More than 28,000 adults in Boulder County have asthma, and over 15,000 have cardiovascular disease, data in the report shows. Nearly 13,600 have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The county has the fifth-highest number of high ozone days out of all Colorado counties — ranking worse than Denver. Jefferson, Douglas, Arapahoe and Larimer counties earned the worst scores, respectively.

Wildfires in western states are one of the central factors behind the higher levels of pollution, according to the report. Boulder County’s proximity to metro Denver and the oil and gas development in Weld County also contribute to higher local levels of pollution. 

In 2017, the Boulder County commissioners adopted the strictest oil and gas development regulations in Colorado. Boulder County Public Health is currently working with the Colorado Air Quality Commission and the Regional Air Quality Council to improve pollution levels in the county and state.

Ozone monitoring is conducted at the Union and Boulder reservoirs, and the Vance Brand Airport to help warn residents when there are unhealthy levels of pollution

In a Lung Association ranking of the largest metros in the U.S., Denver’s metro area moved from No. 7 in 2022 to No. 6 this year for ozone pollution. The Fort Collins metro area was ranked 18th last year, and moved to No. 15 this year. The worst metro for ozone pollution in the country is Los Angeles, CA.

Amber Fisher

About the Author: Amber Fisher

I'm thrilled to be an assistant editor with the Longmont Leader after spending the past decade reporting for news outlets across North America. When I'm not writing, you can find me snowboarding, reading fiction and running (poorly).
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