Breathe at your own risk: NoVA counties receive ‘F’ for air quality

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from unhealthy air.

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If you live in these Northern Virginia counties, the air you breathe may be putting your health at risk: Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun and Prince William.

The 2019 State of the Air report, released by the American Lung Association in late April, ranked the Washington-Baltimore region as the 16th most ozone-polluted city in the U.S., and also gave an “F” to Arlington and Fairfax for the number of high ozone days that occurred from 2015 to 2017. Loudoun and Prince William counties received “Cs.”

The annual report specifically looks at ozone and particle pollution levels collected over the three-year time span. Ozone (also known as smog) is an invisible pollutant and an irritant to the lungs. Particle pollution is a mix of microscopic solid and liquid particles that float in the air.

What does this mean for residents’ health? Well, both can cause lunch cancer, cardiovascular health issues, premature death and asthma attacks, according to the ALA.

Here’s what residents can do to protect themselves from unhealthy air: check air quality daily here; avoid exercising outdoors when pollution levels are high and avoid exercising near high-traffic areas; don’t burn wood or trash; buy an air purifier for your home (and clean it regularly); and don’t smoke indoors or let others smoke indoors around you. For more tips, visit

While DC and NoVA both received low grades for ozone levels, they all received passing particle pollution grades. Interested in seeing how your town’s air ranks? Click here to find out its grade.

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