Friday, 20 October, 2017

New report pinpoints unhealthiest places to breathe in the US

2014dsskylinebiz Clouds scatter about the sky over the Downtown skyline Darrell Sapp Post-GazetteClouds scatter about the sky over the Downtown skyline
Nellie Chapman | 20 April, 2017, 06:39

But the lung association report says that years of air quality improvements show a "need to support and enforce the Clean Air Act to protect the nation from unhealthy air".

This annual report started almost 20 years ago.

Trump's budget proposal contains a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including weakening and eliminating the Clean Air Act.

California cities are seeing spikes in particle pollution, which can be attributed in part to 2016's active wildfire season, droughts, heat waves and warming temperatures.

Brown, Kewaunee, Shawano, Oconto and Menominee counties received their best ever rankings for both ozone and particle pollution.

The report covers data collected by states and local governments from 2013 through 2015.

"While most of the nation has much cleaner air quality than even a decade ago, many cities reported their highest number of unhealthy days since the report began", the report said. Particle pollution is highest in winter when households are burning wood and diesel exhaust collects in still air, she said.

Janice Nolen with the American Lung Association says, "This is our 18th annual report, so we've seen a lot of improvements". Additionally, according to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, North Dakota ranks third in the nation among all 50 states and the District of Columbia in overall air quality, based on population-weighted design values from 2013-15.

Particle pollution levels (caused by emissions from coal plant, diesel engines and other sources) improved or remained the same over a year ago. Particulates are also linked to lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

The five cities with the highest year-round particle pollution levels are all in California: Bakersfield; Visalia-Porterville-Hanford; Fresno-Madera; San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland; and Los Angeles-Long Beach.

Many cities, such as Charleston, reached their lowest levels of ozone and year-round particle pollution ever. Counties in New Jersey received high grades on particle pollution but failing grades on high ozone days. And by most ozone-polluted cities, California owns seven of the worst-off cities. Northampton and Warren counties also earned a "C" for ozone days, while Monroe had a "B".

The only city in the region on the most polluted list was Baton Rouge, La.

The installation of modern pollution controls on power plants and retirement of old plants, the increasing reliance on renewable energy sources and natural gas over coal, and the creation of more stringent fuel emission standards have all contributed to the pollution declines, he says.

Ozone can be harmful to people with respiratory problems and other vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly.

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.

"The protections we've got in place from the Clean Air Act are working, particularly for people with underlying health issues, but there's still four out of 10 people in the country living in areas where they have unhealthy levels in the air", he said.

Learn more about the 2017 "State of the Air" report at Lung.org/sota.

Ozone is the other air pollutant the American Lung Association studies.