A report by the American Lung Association released Tuesday states that about half of Americans breathe unhealthy air and there is environmental pollution in nine cities in the west of the country.
The annual “State of the Air” report describes that climate change continues to worsen air pollution and notes that amid the coronavirus pandemic, which strikes the lungs, the state of air quality is “of great concern.” .
The document, which analyzes data collected in 2016, 2017 and 2018, says that these three years are among the five hottest on record in history, and climate change patterns promote forest fires whose dangerous fumes contribute to increased pollution.
“The report found that air quality in some communities has improved, but … there are still too many people breathing in unhealthy air,” said the president and CEO of the American Lung Association, Harold Wimmer.
This degraded air quality threatens everyone, particularly children, older adults, and people living with lung disease.
“Air pollution is linked to an increased risk of lung infections,” added Wimmer. “Protecting everyone from COVID-19 and other lung infections is an urgent reminder of the importance of clean air.”
The annual reports of the American Lung Association focus on the two most common outdoor air pollutants: ozone and particulate. Both are dangerous to public health and can be deadly.
The unhealthy particles in the air come from forest fires, wood stoves, coal-fired power plants, diesel engines, and other sources. These microscopic particles lodge deep in the lungs and can even enter the bloodstream.
Contamination with particulate can cause asthma attacks, cardiac arrests and heart attacks, and cause lung cancer. New research also links air pollution to the development of serious diseases like asthma and dementia.
Ozone pollution, often referred to as smog, is a powerful respiratory irritant whose effects have been described as heat stroke of the lung.
Breathing ozone can cause shortness of breath and cause coughs and asthma attacks that could shorten life. The warmer temperatures caused by climate change make ozone formation easier and more difficult to clean.
The report has two lines for particulate contamination: one for “short-term” particulate contamination – or one-day increases – and another for the “annual” level that represents the concentration of particles day after day at each location.
The report notes that the 10 cities in the United States with the highest long-term particulate contamination are: Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California; Bakersfield, California; San José-San Francisco-Oakland, California; Fairbanks, Alaska; Yakima, Washington; Los Angeles-Long Beach, California; Missoula, Montana; Redding-Red Bluff, California; Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah, and Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
The 10 cities with the highest annual particulate pollution are: Bakersfield, California; Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California; Visalia, California; Los Angeles-Long Beach, California; San José-San Francisco-Oakland, California; Fairbanks, Alaska; Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona; El Centro, California; Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia, and Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The 10 cities with the highest ozone pollution are: Los Angeles-Long Beach, California; Visalia, California; Bakersfield, California; Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California; Sacramento-Roseville, California; San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, California; Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona; San José-San Francisco-Oakland, California; Las Vegas-Henderson, Nevada, and Denver-Aurora, Colorado.
The report also mentions the four cities with the cleanest air in the United States: Bangor, Maine; Burlington-South Burlington-Barre, Vermont; Honolulu, Hawaii, and Wilmington, North Carolina.
“The science is clear,” said Wimmer. “The nation needs greater limits on ozone and particulate pollution to safeguard the health, especially of children and people with lung diseases.”