Mar 19, 2024 - News

Virginia's air quality is expected to get worse

Estimated days with unhealthy air quality, 2024
Data: First Street Foundation; Note: Maximum count of days with unhealthy air quality from anywhere within each county; Map: Axios Visuals

After decades of progress in the U.S. toward cleaner air, climate change-related events will set back gains in parts of Virginia through 2054.

The big picture: More than half of Virginia — or 75 localities — will see an increase over the next 30 years in "bad air quality" days, when pollution is above 100 on the air quality index, per new research from the nonprofit First Street Foundation.

  • Richmond, Chesterfield and Henrico will go from one "bad air quality" day this year to three.
  • Parts of the Hampton Roads region will see up to eight "bad air quality" days in that time frame, the highest in Virginia.
  • There are 27 cities and counties that will experience zero "bad air quality" days, mostly toward southwest Virginia.

Why it matters: Poor air quality is tied to health problems, including reduced lung function and even early death. It can also impact day-to-day life when it limits people's ability to safely go outside.

Between the lines: Virginia's air quality won't tank as much as states on the West Coast, some of which are projected to see up to three months with air quality above 100, reports Axios' Andrew Freedman.

Yes, but: Just because some wildfires are thousands of miles away doesn't mean they can't impact us.


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