We've all heard about the layers and layers of bad news and bad outcomes as a result of the Covid Pandemic so I ask....is there anything positive to report?

Take a deep breath, and the answer is,  yes - air quality in Yakima got better.

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Obvious But Beneficial

Now if you think the obvious reason would seem to be less traffic, fewer places to go, less exposure to or generation of air pollution due to the pandemic lockdowns you would be right.

But we do need to at least acknowledge the benefits as presented in a new report from Filterbuy looking at U.S. metropolitan areas that experienced the biggest improvement in air quality from 2019 to 2020.

Air quality is a significant issue for both environmental and human health. In the environment, air pollution negatively affects soil and water quality through smog and acid rain, harming animals and plant life. The latter effects can have consequences for humans by disrupting crop yields and other sources of food, but air pollution can also have direct effects on human health by contributing to risks like asthma, emphysema, and cardiovascular disease.

Yakima Air Quality Improves

The report shows that from 2019 to 2020, the Yakima area experienced a 7.9% decline in median AQI, which means Yakima had better air quality in 2020 overall.

While a lot of people remain concerned about climate change, info gleaned from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that the concentration of air pollutants has shown a steep decline over the past few decades.

Making Progress Since the '70's

Experts say we can chalk that up to much stricter pollution regulations that were first created with the Clean Air Act in the 1970s and amended in the 1990s.  In 2013, for the first time, the concentration level of every pollutant tracked by the EPA dropped below the levels established in the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. So for those chasing the green scene, we have been moving to cleaner air for some time.  Now it would seem the pandemic gave us a short push in that direction once again.

A recent UN report estimated that as the world shut down due to the pandemic, the concentrations of particulate matter dropped by as much as 40% in some parts of the world, though much of the benefit was wiped out by extreme weather events like dust storms and wildfires later in the year and some of those did have an impact on Yakima.  But the numbers showed an overall improvement nonetheless.
Here is a summary of the data for the Yakima, WA metro area:

  • Percentage change in median AQI (2019-2020): -7.9%
  • Median AQI (2020): 35
  • Median AQI (2019): 38
  • Percentage of days with good air quality (2020): 67.8%
  • Percentage of days with good air quality (2019): 62.2%

So while many of us held our collective breath in fear of the virus, the air was actually healthier to breathe.  Weird huh?

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