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Maine receives mixed results in annual 'State of the Air' report

Portland earned a "C" for days with ozone pollution, while Bangor remained a top-seven "cleanest city" in the U.S. for the sixth straight year.

MAINE, USA — The American Lung Association on Wednesday released its 24th annual State of the Air report, grading each state and many cities on their level of pollution over the past year.

Cumberland County, Maine's most populous, scored a "C" for high ozone days. Those occur when smog is formed by sunlight interacting with gas emissions. However, it received an "A" for particle pollution, which is tiny pollutants caused by everything from pollen to brake dust to wildfires. 

In a highlight of the report, Penobscot County not only scored A's across the board, but the association ranked its largest city, Bangor, among the top seven cleanest in America for a sixth straight year. 

Lance Boucher, assistant vice president for state public policy with the ALA, described Maine’s results as a mixed bag.

"Overall, definitely work to be done to continue to both raise awareness about the impacts of unhealthy air, but also see improvement in these ozone grades," the Old Town native said during a Wednesday virtual interview.

Dr. Peggy Pennoyer, a recently retired Maine allergist and immunologist who advises the ALA, was thrilled to see Bangor's stellar results. But she expressed concern over poor scores in Portland, remote Aroostook County, and other municipalities that dipped over the past year.

"We're worried about ozone," she said during a Wednesday interview near Portland's waterfront. "It's a really dangerous pollutant. It can be life-threatening for people who have heart disease, lung disease, the young, the elderly, and even the healthy."

The long-term solution, the pair agreed, is to push state and federal leaders to implement more policies that fight climate change. 

Meantime, they said, monitor air quality reports on bad days, and maximize the good ones in Maine's outdoors.

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