York County's air quality is so bad it just missed making the American Lung Association's list of the 25 most polluted areas in the country.

The association gave the York-Hanover-Gettysburg area an "F" for short-term soot pollution on its annual "State of the Air" report card. It was bad enough to earn the 26th worst spot among the 200 U.S. metropolitan areas studied.

What's even more discouraging is that York County's air in that category is getting worse, not better:

Last year, we were the 53rd worst for short-term pollution, which refers to particle levels that "spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end," according to the American Lung Association.

The organization also gave York County an "F" for ozone pollution, or smog, which irritates the lungs and can cause immediate health problems like coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks and death.

The report, released Tuesday, wasn't all bad news for York County -- we received a passing grade for long-term pollution, or the unhealthy levels on average daily throughout the year. Also, the overall air quality for our region has improved since the American Lung Association started the "State of the Air" report 14 years ago.

But it was bad enough.

"We must set stronger health standards for pollutants and clean up sources of pollution in the York region to protect the health of our citizens," Deb Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, said in a news release.


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Agreed.

However, to fix a problem, we first have to know what's causing it.

And the American Lung Association is as confused as anyone as to why York County's air is so bad.

"Not exactly sure what exactly is going on here," said Kevin Stewart, the association's director of environmental health. "There are some complicated things that are happening."

One possibility is that pollution is wafting from larger metro areas, such as Baltimore and Washington, D.C., he said.

What is clear is that someone finally needs to get to the bottom of what's going on so we can improve the air quality and health of the residents in York and Adams counties.

It would seem that's the job of the state Department of Environmental Protection. With all of Pennsylvania's largest metropolitan areas making at least one of the American Lung Association's three "worst" lists this year, it really should be a priority.

And since out-of-state areas might be contributing to our problems, the federal Environmental Protection Agency needs to be involved.

Yes, that is stating the obvious.

But obviously, what's being done now isn't working.

Something definitely "is going on here."

And we need to know exactly what that is before we can even hope to fix it.