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Cover of report by Environment America Research & Policy Center, USPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group
In 2018, nearly 110 million Americans lived in areas with air quality that was unhealthy for more than 100 days of the year, according to a new report published on Tuesday by Environment America Research & Policy Center, USPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. And 157 million more live in areas that have degraded air quality, it’s just degraded less often, and these citizens who live with excessive air pollution are spread across the country in large and small cities and even in rural areas.
Why This Matters: Dirty air negatively impacts’ people’s health and even their life expectancy — as we have often reported here in Our Daily Planet, and air quality in the U.S. is not good enough, despite what the current administration may try to claim. Indeed, New York Magazine reported last fall that after a 25 percent decline in fine-particulate pollution over the seven years prior to Trump’s election, particulate pollution increased by 5.5 percent from 2016 to 2018, according to an analysis of EPA data by researchers at Carnegie Mellon. We also know that climate change is exacerbating the problem according to the report, and thus we will in the future see an increase in the incidences of respiratory and cardiovascular health problems, including premature death. And nowhere in the U.S. is immune from this problem — the authors say that people in every state face health risks from ground-level ozone pollution.
The Top Ten Worse Cities For Air Quality
In order they are: (1) greater Los Angeles; (2) greater Chicago; (3) greater Dallas-Fort Worth; (4) greater Houston; (5) greater Atlanta; (6) greater Phoenix; (7) greater San Bernadino (CA); (8) greater Detroit; (9) greater San Diego; and (10) greater Denver. The California cities had poor air quality for much longer — with San Bernadino having a staggering 227 bad air days in 2018.
As we have reported, EPA researchers have long linked asthma— a serious and life-threatening chronic respiratory disease that affects the quality of life of more than 23 million Americans— with exposure to air pollution. Cities with some of the worst air pollution have the highest rates of asthma.
As the Biden administration is readying a reversal of the Trump policies loosening rules on auto emissions, many states have started tightening their laws to align with the California clean car standards. Case in point: the Virginia legislature last week passed a law that toughened its emissions standards.
Gas flaring was responsible for Texas’s recent increase in oil refinery pollution, but it’s hardly a new problem. We’re less than a decade away from the UN’s goal of Zero Routine Flaring by 2030, but refineries still flare 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year, releasing 400 million tons of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the atmosphere.
Why This Matters: Companies have historically practiced gas flaring as a convenient and inexpensive way to “dispose of ” gas that was extracted alongside oil, as opposed to storing paying to store it.
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