Report names Columbus as most polluted major U.S. city in 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – For the second year in a row, IQ Air’s World Air Report names Columbus as the most polluted major city in the U.S. Community members said they are shocked to hear this news.

“That’s very hard for me to believe. Obviously a little bit upsetting. I came from Pittsburgh two years ago and the city does feel a lot cleaner than Pittsburgh. Just makes me want to kind of get out there and do something to make it better,” said Kelsey Rzymek.

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The report is placing a lot of blame on the wildfires in Canada spreading to the midwest last June.

NBC4 spoke with Brandi Whetstone, the Associate Director of Sustainability at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, to better understand the report. She said the report is a bit misleading.

“Further from reports that we’ve produced with this data, we’ve actually seen an overall trend of improvement in air quality over the last 30 years. And while that can vary from year to year due to outside factors like wildfire smoke,” Whetstone said.

Whetstone said MORPC tracks air quality in Columbus everyday with the EPA. She said they are looking for ozone and particle pollution.

Whetstone said it is correct that air quality did get worse from 2022 to 2023. She said with significant growth in central Ohio, it’s something they are keeping an eye on.

“That means there’s a lot of things that we can be doing. We’re not perfect, but we can be doing a lot more to improve air quality, and that can include things like reducing driving, you know, using carpooling, transit, even biking and walking to nearby destinations,” Whetstone said.

Whetstone said other ways to reduce pollution is by switching to battery powered outdoor equipment instead of gas powered.

Community members NBC4 spoke with said they already feel inspired to make that change.

“So just making sure that people realize how important it is and then kind of voicing that too,” Rzymek said.

Whetstone said air quality is something that can impact your health especially if you have asthma or other respiratory infections. Click here to learn more about MORPC’s air quality alerts.

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