The American Lung Association released its 20th State of the Air Report this week, updating its rating of air quality across the country and grading cities for air quality for the years 2015-2017. The report covers the three warmest years in modern history, and shows a troubling trend of declining air quality in the US. This adds to the evidence that climate change is a major threat to air quality, harming the health of Americans today, and requires urgent action at all levels of government.
The report found an increase in the number of Americans living with unhealthy air, compared to the 2018 report. Here’s a snapshot of the findings, by the numbers.
- 141.1 million: Number of people living in counties with unhealthy levels of smog (ground-level-ozone) or particle pollution (also called PM 2.5, which refers to the size of the particles).
- 7.2 million: Increase in number of Americans living in counties with unhealthy air, compared to last year’s report.
- 43.3: Percentage of Americans living in counties with unhealthy air.
- 19: Number of years that Los Angeles has ranked as most polluted US city for smog, out of 20 years that American Lung Association has been publishing this report.
- 20.2 million: Number of people living in counties with unhealthy air for all three pollutants included in the report (smog, daily particle pollution, and annual average of particle pollution)
- 12: Number of counties that have unhealthy levels of all three measures included in the report (smog, daily particle pollution, and annual average of particle pollution)
The Report doesn’t just rank and grade cities for air quality. It also highlights the most important risks to our air, focusing on the Trump administration’s multiple efforts to roll back or weaken healthy air protections and the Clean Air Act. The American Lung Association also identifies the systematic attempt to “weaken the scientific review” of regulations as a threat to our air. The efforts to undermine science and scientists at the EPA represent an insidious attempt to curry favor with industry at the expense of our health. We must stand up for science as the basis of strong health protections.
As always, the report provides an essential tool to all clean air advocates by providing a report card for every state. These reports provide vital information about the air quality where you live, including making clear that many, many counties lack air quality monitors, and that we need to demand clean air protections to protect our health.