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April 30, 2014

Nearly Half of Americans Live with Unhealthy Air

Smog1The American Lung Association released its annual "State of the Air" report today, and its disturbing overall finding was: "Nearly half of all Americans - more than 147 million - live in counties in the U.S. where ozone or particle pollution levels make the air unhealthy to breathe."

While there was some good news to report - "the continued reduction of year-round particle pollution across the nation, thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants"- climate disruption is posing a serious air pollution threat, at the same time that ozone pollution is increasing nationwide. As temperatures rise, ozone pollution gets worse, threatening public health.

The long-standing problem of smog throughout the country is another why it's so important that we continue to move beyond coal to clean energy. Pollution from coal-fired power plants leads to smog (or ground-level ozone), a toxic compound and a dangerous irritant. Doctors liken inhaling smog to getting a sunburn on your lungs. It can cause chest pain, coughing, and breathing difficulties. It triggers asthma attacks, and it can lead to irreversible lung damage or even death. Smog exacerbates conditions like bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma - sometimes fatally.

Here are some more national findings from the 2014 State of the Air:

  • More than 27.8 million people in the United States (8.9 percent of our population) live in 17 counties with unhealthful levels of all pollutants measured in the report.
  • Twenty-two of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities in the 2014 report - including Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago - had more high ozone days on average when compared to the 2013 report.
  • Thirteen of the 25 cities with the worst year-round particle pollution reached their lowest levels yet, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Bakersfield.

You should take a look at the full "State of the Air" report, which allows you to look up air-quality ratings by zip code and also provides resourcing for taking action to clean up our air.

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