A recent report released by the American Lung Association (ALA) found that 47 percent of the nation live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. The State of the Air 2014 measured air quality across the United States by examining ozone and year-round and short-term fine particle pollution.
The State of the Air 2014 found the United States’ air quality worsened from 2010-2012, but overall remained cleaner than a decade ago. Levels of ozone were higher from 2010-2012 than in 2009-2011. These higher ozone levels may be attributed to warmer temperatures in 2012, as rising temperatures create favorable conditions for the formation of ozone. The report found a continued reduction in year-round particle pollution, which was a result of the transition to cleaner diesel engines and the clean-up of coal-fired power plants. Furthermore, the report concluded that 14 percent of Americans (44.1 million) live in counties that experienced too many days with unhealthy levels in short-term particle pollution, which was a decrease from 2009-2011.
More than 27.8 million Americans (8.9 percent) live in 17 counties with unhealthful levels of all pollutants measured in this report. While Los Angeles remained the metropolitan area with the worst ozone pollution, the city reached their lowest level yet. Similarly, 13 of the 25 cities with the worst year-round particle pollution reached their lowest levels yet, including, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Bakersfield. A list of the most polluted cities can be found here. In contrast, Bangor, ME, Bismarck, ND, Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL, and Salinas, CA had no days with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollutions. A list of the cleanest cities can be found here.
Ozone and particle pollution are the most widespread air pollutants in the United States, but are not the only types of pollutants (e.g. carbon dioxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, etc). Air pollution can lead to premature deaths, immediate breathing problems, cardiovascular issues, respiratory issues, and may cause reproductive, developmental, and central nervous system harm. ALA has provided tips you can take to protect yourself from ozone and particle pollution.
Are you at risk from air pollution? Find out the air quality in your area!