Report highlighting America’s unhealthy air and more, sobering

This year’s Earth Day message here on the Air Quality Matters blog has the title: “Earth Day 2018: Air, airways, lungs, etc. no places for pollution” and for good reason. The entry opens with this pointed declaration: “It’s a known fact the pollution continually being poured into our atmosphere is detrimental to health and wellbeing when breathed in.” I don’t know about you, but, that, to me, is an unsettling if not upsetting thought.

I went on to add, “The fact of the matter is, as reported in The Guardian newspaper recently, in the world, greater than 9.5 in 10 people are exposed to unhealthy air, a thorough air-pollution study has found.” What this amounts to, in effect, is that below 5 percent of world population breathes clean air and I went on to state as much.

And, then there was this: “Meanwhile, in the coming days, it is anticipated that the American Lung Association will release its annual ‘State of the Air’ report. My expectation is that the report, will pretty much mirror ‘State of the Air’ reports of the past with many parts of California identified as having the nation’s worst air for both ozone and fine particulates.”

Well, the lung group’s latest report is now out. Very important to me is what the American Lung Association’s findings as it relates to the quality of air and health are. So that you are in the know, the date of this year’s annual report release is Apr. 17th, the same day coincidentally, as my 2018 Earth Day message.

Report findings

Here is just some of what the American Lung Association in its Apr. 17, 2018 “More than 4 in 10 Americans Live with Unhealthy Air According to 2018 ‘State of the Air’ Report” press release on this had to say.

“The American Lung Association’s 2018 ‘State of the Air’ report found ozone pollution worsened significantly due to warmer temperatures, while particle pollution generally continued to improve in 2014-2016. The 19th annual national air quality ‘report card’ found that 133.9 million Americans—more than four in 10 (41.4 percent)—lived in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution in 2014-2016, placing them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.”

The lung association goes on to state that highlighted in the report every year are the outdoor air pollutants ozone and particulates. The ALA emphasizes further that in the report particulates are analyzed “in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution.”

This information is followed by top-10 (two) and top-11 (one) lists: For the top-10 there is one each for cities polluted most by ozone and fine particulate matter (what’s referred to as PM 2.5 or particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers across) in the short-term (over a period of 24 hours). The top-11 list reflects highest year-round (annual PM 2.5) levels in cities.

As to the first the worst of the worst: Los Angeles-Long Beach; Bakersfield; Visalia-Porterville-Hanford; Fresno-Madera; Sacramento-Roseville; San Diego-Carlsbad; Modesto-Merced (all of which are within California); Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona; Redding-Red Bluff (California); and New York-Newark, New York-New Jersey-Connecticut-Pennsylvania.

On the matter of fine particulates, 24-hour short-term spikes, topping this list are: California city or city combos Bakersfield, Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Fresno-Madera, Modesto-Merced, San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Los Angeles-Long Beach, El Centro; Fairbanks in Alaska; Utah city combo Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem; and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania)-New Castle (Ohio)-Weirton (West Virginia).

And, in the top-11 fine particle pollution list and going from worst to less-worse (in descending order) are: Fairbanks, Alaska; Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Bakersfield, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Fresno-Madera, Modesto-Merced, El Centro (California); Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania)-New Castle (Ohio)-Weirton (West Virginia) and Lancaster, Pennsylvania (tied for eighth); with San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland (California) and Cleveland-Akron-Canton in Ohio (both in the 10th position).


Find more on the American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of the Air” report including “Key Findings,” “City Rankings,” and “Health Risks,” here.

This post has been updated.

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

2 thoughts on “Report highlighting America’s unhealthy air and more, sobering”

  1. I don’t know about you, but where I live in the central San Joaquin Valley, I have more friends who have issues with breathing then I do who have none. Which are far and few between. I’m not saying that we are a bunch of sick people, but the air-quality, I’m sure, contributes to what we have if not exacerbate the problem is. So, let’s open up our eyes, Otherwise our children and their children will be wearing gas masks, which really is not a good legacy to hand down to them.

    • California’s Central Valley cities, those mentioned in the “State of the Air” report, consistently rank as cities with the nation’s poorest and unhealthiest air quality. If we continue to maintain the same practices – continued sprawl; roadway expansion; increased driving activity; increased exploitation of driving fuel-inefficient internal combustion vehicles; continued inefficient wood-burning practices in the home, at restaurants (charbroilers), in outdoor fire pits, and at some commercial establishments like motels and hotels; increased releases of pollution from industrial operations and that coming from the extraction of oil as well as those associated with oil refining; all that plus emissions releases from other sources – without significant change, then expect that Valley cities will continue to be on the American Lung Association’s top-10 list for ozone, fine particulate matter measured over 24-hours and average annual fine particulate matter with the consequent health problems associated with breathing this miasmic crud-in-the-air in. That’s a given.

      My suspicion is that the condition of the air in the Central Valley isn’t going see dramatic improvement until the matter of the air becomes important or serious enough of an issue in residents’ lives for such to not only advocate but demand major change. When that happens, if that happens, that’s when we’ll begin to see marked improvement in air quality.

      Residents should be outraged!


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