"State of the Air 2014" Shows Half the U.S. Lives with Unhealthy Air
Nearly half of all Americans — more than 147 million — live in counties in the U.S. where ozone or particle pollutions levels make the air unhealthy to breathe, according to the American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2014" report released today. The 15th annual national report card shows that while the nation overall continued to reduce particle pollution, a pollutant recently found to cause lung cancer, poor air quality remains a significant public health concern and a changing climate threatens to make it harder to protect human health. Especially alarming is that levels of ozone (smog), a powerful respiratory irritant and the most widespread air pollutant, were much worse than in the previous year's report.
"We are happy to report continued reduction of year-round particle pollution across the nation, thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants," said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "However, this improvement represents only a partial victory. We know that warmer temperatures increase risk for ozone pollution, so climate change sets the stage for tougher challenges to protect human health. We must meet these challenges head on to protect the health of millions of Americans living with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All of us —everyone in every family—have the right to healthy air."
Key "State of the Air 2014" findings include:
- Nearly half of the people in the United States (147.6 million) live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution.
- More than 27.8 million people (8.9%) in the United States live in 17 counties with unhealthful levels of all pollutants measured in the report.
- Twenty-two of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities in the 2014 report — including Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago — had more high ozone days on average when compared to the 2013 report.
- Thirteen of the 25 cities with the worst year-round particle pollution reached their lowest levels yet, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Bakersfield.
Once again, Los Angeles remains the metropolitan area with the worst ozone pollution, a ranking it has held in all but one of the 15 State of the Air reports. Fresno-Madera, Calif. moved to the top of both lists for most polluted for particle pollution. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Bangor, ME, Bismarck, ND, Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL, and Salinas, Calif., were named the "cleanest cities" for having no days with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution and for being among the 25 cities with the lowest year-round particle levels.
Read more at the American Lung Association.
Smog in Los Angeles image via Shutterstock.