Lung association reports 4-in-10 Americans live in counties with unhealthy air

Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population resides in counties with polluted air.

This is one of the messages in the American Lung Association’s (ALA) “‘State of the Air’ Report Finds Continued Improvement in Air Quality, Yet Increase in Life-threatening Spikes of Particle Pollution: American Lung Association report finds 4 in 10 Americans live in counties with unhealthful levels of air pollution,” an Apr. 19, 2017 press release.

In the release the Lung Association reports: “The American Lung Association’s 2017 ‘State of the Air’ report found continued improvement in air quality, but a continued increase in dangerous spikes in particle pollution is putting Americans’ health at risk. The annual, national air quality ‘report card’ found that 125 million Americans—nearly four in ten (38.9%)—lived in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution in 2013-2015, placing them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.”

And, repeating what has been a trend for quite a while now, once again it is cities in California’s San Joaquin Valley and South Coast air basins that top the list as the country’s most polluted.

In the top 5 for ozone pollution, from worst to less poor, are: Los Angeles-Long Beach, Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera, Visalia-Porterville-Hanford and, in Arizona, Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale.

Then there is particle pollution measured over 24 hours considered “short-term.” For this pollutant, the lung association identified Bakersfield, California as the city with the poorest air quality, followed by Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Fresno-Madera, Modesto-Merced and Fairbanks, Alaska. Los Angeles-Long Beach, in the top 10, was identified as number 9.

Meanwhile, for particle pollution determined over a period of a year or Annual PM2.5, here again, from most problematic to less so, are: Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera, San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland and Los Angeles-Long Beach.

“Each year the ‘State of the Air’ reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution,” the ALA in the release further explained. “The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can be lethal. But the trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2013-2015, are strikingly different for these pollutants.”

Also listed in the press release were six cities in the U.S. with the cleanest air. In alphabetical order, these are: Burlington-South Burlington (Vermont), Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples (Florida), Elmira-Corning (New York), Honolulu (Hawaii), Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville (Florida) and Wilmington (North Carolina).

The American Lung Association’s National President and Chief Executive Officer, Harold P. Wimmer, in the press release in no uncertain terms emphasized that the Clean Air Act as a protective “tool in the fight for healthy air” is important. Over 47 years, it has not only “improved health by driving emission reductions,” but has also been successful at saving lives, which, by the way, the “State of the Air” report “continues to document,” the national president and CEO in the press release was quoted as having said.

For more on the 2017 “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association, visit: Lung.org/sota

Image above: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

3 thoughts on “Lung association reports 4-in-10 Americans live in counties with unhealthy air

    • I read your letter in The Fresno Bee.

      Used to blow leaves during the wetter times of the year, I’m not dead-set against leaf blowers in that context – in other words, if they are used for their intended purpose. But, it’s the way I’ve seen them being used (that is, to blow dirt, dust and debris around) that makes absolutely no sense at all to me.

      I can’t help but notice when neighbors are getting their lawns manicured. I was out in my yard and paid particularly close attention to the people doing the yard-grooming work one time, especially the part involving residue cleanup. I watched the person with leaf blower blow the dirt and dust over to the neighbor’s property. When it was the neighbor’s turn to mow his lawn and clean up the residual stuff left on the ground and pavement afterwards, sure enough, with leaf blower in hand, he proceeded to blow the stuff every which way, invariably some of it going back to the place from whence it came. That seemed like a no win, no-cleanup situation; a futile, wasted effort if you ask me.

      The good news is, the last couple of times I noticed when the second neighbor cleaned up after mowing his lawn, in the leaf blower’s place, a broom was used instead. So, there is indeed hope yet!

  1. These statistics really are unbelievable considering there is so little media coverage of the problem. Even from an economic perspective, the health costs are huge! I really hope that we can address this sooner rather than later…

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