“State of the Air” – Half of U.S. Live with Unhealthy Air

(April 30, 2014)

The American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report finds half of Americans still live in counties where ozone or particle pollutions levels make the air unhealthy to breathe.  The 15th annual national report card shows that while the nation overall continued to reduce particle pollution, a pollutant recently found to cause lung cancer, poor air quality remains a significant public health concern and a changing climate threatens to make it harder to protect human health. Especially alarming is that levels of ozone (smog), a powerful respiratory irritant and the most widespread air pollutant, were much worse than in the previous year’s report.

“We are happy to report continued reduction of year-round particle pollution across the nation, thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association.  “However, this improvement represents only a partial victory. We know that warmer temperatures increase risk for ozone pollution, so climate change sets the stage for tougher challenges to protect human health. We must meet these challenges head on to protect the health of millions of Americans living with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All of us –everyone in every family—have the right to healthy air.”

What did “State of the Air 2014” find?

  • Nearly half of the people in the United States (147.6 million) live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution.
  • More than 27.8 million people (8.9%) in the United States 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.

Is your city on America’s most polluted list? Or are you in one of our cleanest cities? Find out here.

Someone you love is likely at higher risk

Air pollution remains a pervasive health threat. You probably know someone on the list below who faces a higher risk from air pollution (maybe including you!):

  • infants, children, teenagers and older adults
  • anyone with lung diseases like asthma or COPD,
  • people with heart disease or diabetes,
  • people with low incomes, and
  • anyone who works or exercises outdoors.

Dangerous levels of ozone or particle pollution can cause wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death.  Learn more about the health risks of air pollution.

Want to learn more?

Visit www.stateoftheair.org to see how your community ranks and to learn how to protect yourself and your family from air pollution.

You Can Help Want to help protect the air we all share? Here’s what you can do:

  • Urgent! Tell President Obama to set carbon pollution standards that will protect our health from the effects of climate change.
  • Take time there to share your story about why healthy air matters to you and your family.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at @LungAssociation for much more information about lung health.
  • Take steps to clean up the air in your community and to protect your family: drive less; walk, bike, carpool or take transit. Don’t burn wood or trash. Make sure your local school system uses clean school buses. Use less electricity. Don’t’ exercise on high pollution days and never exercise near busy freeways.
  • Make a financial contribution to the American Lung Association to support our fight for clean and healthy air at lung.org.

About “State of the Air”
State of the Air 2014” is the Lung Association’s 15th annual, national air quality “report card.” It uses the most recent air pollution data, compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the two most widespread types of pollution - ozone (smog) and particle pollution (PM 2.5, also known as soot).  The report grades counties and ranks cities and counties based on their scores for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels.