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Report shows air quality is getting worse in parts of New Mexico

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A new report shows New Mexico’s air quality is getting worse –– especially near the oil-rich Permian Basin.

Across the board, the state's report card doesn’t look too good.

Very few counties in the state report ozone data, but among the nine that do, over half have “D” or “F” grades. At the bottom of the barrel are Bernalillo, Doña Ana, Eddy, and San Juan counties.

JoAnna Strother is with the American Lung Association, which puts out the yearly “State of the Air” report. She said the oil and gas industry is disproportionately affecting rural New Mexico.

“Eddy County is one of two rural counties in the country that fail when it comes to ozone,” Strother said. “ And, in fact, in our last five reports the county has gotten worse on ozone levels.”

The report also found that Albuquerque ranked among the top 25 cities in the nation for the worst ozone levels. Strother said that could be from a mixture of climate change, the valley the city sits in, and increasing smog from transportation emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency says ozone is the main ingredient in smog and it can inflame and damage airways, increase asthma attacks and aggravate lung diseases. Children are at the highest risk from too much ozone.

Rio Arriba and Santa Fe county have the best recorded air quality in the state.

Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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