American Lung Association: Forty Percent of the U.S. Breaths Unhealthy Air

Graphic: American Lung Association

The American Lung Association issued their 2019State of the Air” Report which found that more than 40% of Americans — 141 million — live in a county with unhealthy air, which represents an increase of 7 million people more than last year.   Despite some progress, “in 2015-2017, more cities had high days of ozone and short-term particle pollution compared to 2014-2016 and many cities measured increased levels of year-round particle pollution.”  According to the American Lung Association:

  • More cities experienced days when there were spikes in particle pollution, with eight cities of the 25 most-polluted reaching their highest number since the report began: Fairbanks, Alaska; Salinas, CA; Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA; Missoula, Montana; Bismarck, ND; Bend-Pineville, OR; Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d’Alene, WA-ID; and Yakima, Washington.
  • The U.S. also recorded more days than ever before with air quality considered hazardous — which is when air quality reached “emergency conditions”—Maroon on the air quality index.
  • Los Angeles is the city with the worst ozone pollution — it has been the highest for 19 years of the 20-year history of the report.
  • Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA was most-polluted for year-round particle pollution and Bakersfield, CA, was the worst short-term particle pollution.
  • The 2019 report—the 20th annual release—uses the most recent quality-assured air pollution data, collected by the federal, state and local governments and tribes in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The report also demonstrates that climate change is worsening air quality and making it hard to protect human health.  The Lung Association points out that the “three years covered in this report ranked as the hottest years on record globally. High ozone days and spikes in particle pollution zoomed, putting millions more people at risk and adding challenges to the work cities are doing across the nation to clean up.”

Why This Matters:  The numbers are in and it is clear that the Trump Administration’s clean air rule rollbacks are having a detrimental impact.  And climate change is exacerbating the problems caused by increasing pollution.  Eight cities experience the highest levels of air pollution since the Lung Association began compiling the report 20 years ago — all of them in the West.  These record-breaking “worsts” should be a cause for great concern — the American Lung Association is sounding an alarm that air pollution is rising and putting American health and lives at risk. With the federal government loosening standards, it will be up to state air quality managers to take action.

What You Can Do: Check out how your city ranks by clicking hereTo fight for cleaner air, you can join or support the Moms Clean Air Force by clicking here.

More than 141 million Americans, or more than 4 in 10 of us, live in counties that got at least one "F" for unhealthy air.

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