2016 ‘State of the Air’ Report Finds More Than 1/2 of Americans Live with Unhealthy Air Pollution

BY ON May 3, 2016

Outline of a US map against a blue sky


This is an excerpt from the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2016” report.

The American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” report found continued improvement in air quality, but more than half (52.1%) of the people in the United States live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. The annual, national air quality “report card” found that 166 million Americans live with unhealthful levels of air pollution (Tweet this), putting them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects like lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.

According to this year’s 17th annual report, short-term spikes in particle pollution have gotten worse since the 2015 report, including in the city with the worst particle pollution problem, Bakersfield, Calif. For multiple cities that suffered spikes in particle pollution during this period, many of these spikes were directly linked to weather patterns like drought or to events like wildfires, which are likely to increase because of climate change.

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution (24-hour PM2.5):

  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
  • Modesto-Merced, Calif.
  • Fairbanks, Ala.
  • Salt lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
  • Logan, Utah-Idaho
  • San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  • Missoula, Mont.

The rise in short-term particle pollution provides current examples of how major changes in drought and rainfall are already affecting public health. According to the 2016 report, seven of the 25 most polluted cities had their highest number of unhealthy short-term particle pollution days on average ever reported.

Increased heat, changes in climate patterns, drought and wild fires are all related to climate change, which has contributed to the extraordinarily high numbers of days with unhealthy particulate matter. The particles—emanating from wildfires, woodburning devices, coal-fired power plants and diesel emissions—are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal.

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5):

  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
  • Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  • El Centro, Calif.
  • (tied) Modesto-Merced, Calif.
  • (tied) San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
  • Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pa.-Ohio-W. Va.
  • Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, Pa.
  • Louisville-Jefferson
  • County-Elizabethtown-Madison, KY-IN

According to the 2016 report, six cities reported their fewest unhealthy ozone days ever, including #1 Los Angeles, and 15 others improved over the previous report’s data. Ozone pollution has decreased because the nation has cleaned up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles. However, climate change causes greater heat, which makes ozone form. When a person inhales ozone pollution, it can cause coughing, trigger asthma attacks, and even shorten life.

Top 10 Most Ozone-Polluted Cities:

  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
  • Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
  • Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Sacramento-Roseville, Calif.
  • Modesto-Merced, Calif.
  • Denver-Aurora, Colo.
  • Las Vegas-Henderson, Nev.-Ariz.
  • Fort Collins, Colo.

Learn more about the 2016 “State of the Air” report at www.stateoftheair.org.

 

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TOPICS: Air Pollution, California, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah