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'State of the Air 2017' – Despite Progress, 4 in 10 Americans at Risk from Air Pollution

(April 19, 2017)

The American Lung Association's 2017 "State of the Air" report finds that 4 in 10 Americans live in counties with unhealthful levels of air pollution, putting them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects like lung cancer, asthma attacks cardiovascular damage and developmental and reproductive harm. This 18th annual national air quality report found that, thanks to the success of the Clean Air Act, the United States has experienced continued improvements in both ozone pollution and year-round particle pollution. However, increased spikes in particle pollution have offset some of those gains, and further progress may be made more difficult by warmer temperatures related to climate change.

Each year, the "State of the Air" report provides a "report card" on air pollution all across the nation. Reviewing data collected from air quality monitors from 2013 to 2015, the report focuses on the two most common and harmful types of air pollution – ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot). "State of the Air" tells how much of each type of pollution is in the air where you live and breathe. Knowing the air quality where you live, or travel, is important because both ozone and particle pollution can harm your health, and even shorten lives.

Want to see how your community ranks, as well as the lists of most-polluted and least-polluted U.S. cities? Visit "State of the Air" and find out.

Those at greatest risk to the health effects of air pollution include infants, children, older adults, anyone living with lung diseases such as asthma and COPD, and people with heart disease or diabetes. Those also at risk include anyone who works or exercises outdoors and people with low incomes who might have increased exposure to air pollution sources. However, dangerous levels of air pollution can harm everyone, even healthy adults. High levels of pollution can cause wheezing and shortness of breath and can trigger severe asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes. Recently, the World Health Organization concluded that particle pollution can cause lung cancer, the leading cancer killer in America.

While this year's report found that 4 in 10 Americans live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution, this is actually a substantial improvement. One-quarter fewer people now live where the air quality hit unhealthy levels compared to the 2016 report, which covered data from 2012-2014. The greatest improvements come from continued progress in reducing pollution from power plants and transportation sources, which contributes to high ozone days and year-round particle pollution. In fact, some cities got their best grades yet. This report shows the sustained success of the Clean Air Act, continuing to clean up pollution in much of the nation.

The report also identified areas of growing concern, particularly a continued increase in dangerous spikes in particle pollution. In fact, many cities experienced their highest number of spikes since monitoring for this pollutant began, with 43 million people living in counties that experienced too many days when particle pollution peaked at unhealthy levels. Increased heat, changes in climate patterns, drought and wildfires—all related to climate change—contributed to the extraordinarily high number of days with unhealthy particulate matter. As climate change continues, cleaning up these pollutants will become ever more challenging.

Our nation's leaders need to step up to protect the health of all Americans. We urge President Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and members of Congress to fully fund, implement and enforce the Clean Air Act for all pollutants – including those that drive climate change and make it harder to achieve healthy air for all.

Everyone has the right to breathe healthy air, and the American Lung Association continues to fight for safeguards that ensure cleaner, healthier air for all Americans.

You can help! Join us in the effort to make sure every breath you take is a healthy one.

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