It just so happens, the release on Apr. 30th of the American Lung Association’s (ALA) report “STATE OF THE AIR® 2014” coincides with Air Quality Awareness Week (AQAW) 2014 and with Day-3 (Wednesday) of AQAW in particular. I wonder if it was planned this way on purpose or if this was just a coincidence. No matter.
“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,” the ALA reported in “American Lung Association ‘State of the Air 2014’ Shows Half the U.S. Lives with Unhealthy Air” press release, released Apr. 30th. “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.”
Is this declaration surprising? Not to me it isn’t. However, it is a glaring one – and a stark reminder that ozone levels have been worsening as opposed to improving.
So, what else is different in this year’s report compared to 2013’s? And, what hasn’t changed?
There were a reported 147.6 million people living with levels of unhealthful ozone or particle pollution (reported in 2014) versus 131.8 million (reported in 2013) or a nearly 12 percent jump.
Over 27.8 million people in 17 counties or approximately 8.9 percent of the U.S. population breathe unhealthy air (reported in 2014) versus 24.8 million or 8 percent of the nation’s population (reported in 2013).
The ALA in the same release further stated:
“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.”
Where metro regions are concerned, Los Angeles is ranked worst for ozone pollution. L.A. has been consistent in maintaining this status as reported in 14 of the 15 total “State of the Air” reports.
“Those at greatest risk from air pollution include infants, children, older adults, anyone with lung diseases like asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works or exercises outdoors,” identical to the wording used by the ALA last year.
“While particle pollution levels generally showed improvement, ozone worsened in the most polluted metropolitan areas in 2010-2012 compared to 2009-2011,” the ALA in the release noted. “The warm summers in 2010 and 2012 contributed to higher ozone readings and more frequent high ozone days.”
As for ozone, it not only being America’s most common air contaminant, having the tendency to cause air damage and discoloration and posing a threat to human, animal and plant health, these factors, in and of themselves, should provide the rallying cry (impetus) to do everything possible to try to mitigate its presence once and for all. For that matter, fine particulate matter, undetectable to the human eye, should not be let out of our sights either.
For more on the American Lung Association’s “STATE OF THE AIR® 2014” report, go here.
– Alan Kandel