News & Events

Sixty percent of Americans live in areas with unhealthy air pollution level

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

From the American Lung Association's 2009 State of the Air Report:

Air pollution continues to threaten the lives and health of millions of people in the United States despite great progress since the modern Clean Air Act was first passed in 1970. Even as the nation explores the complex challenges of global warming and energy, air pollution remains widespread and dangerous.

This year marks the tenth annual American Lung Association State of the Air report and provides an excellent opportunity to look back over the changes in the past ten years. This 2009 report looks at ozone and particle pollution year-round (annual average) and over short-term levels
(24-hour) of particle pollution (PM2.5) found in monitoring sites across the United States in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

* Six out of ten people (61.7%) in the United States population lives in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Almost 186.1 million Americans live in the 525 counties where they are exposed to unhealthful levels of air pollution in the form of either ozone or short-term or year-round levels of particles.

* Roughly six out of ten people in the United States— 58 percent—live in areas with unhealthful levels of ozone. This reflects the much lower threshold for unhealthy ozone as well as warmer temperatures in much of the eastern U.S. Counties that were graded F for ozone levels have a combined population of 175.4 million. These people live in the 485 counties where the monitored air quality places them at risk for lower lung function, respiratory infection, lung inflammation and aggravation of respiratory illness. The actual number who breathe unhealthy levels of ozone is likely much larger, since this number does not include people who live in adjacent counties in metropolitan areas where no monitors exist. Note that this number is much greater than previous State of the Air reports because this estimate is based on the new national standards for ozone adopted in 2008. This increase does not represent that ozone levels have worsened; rather, this means that the problem of ozone is much more widespread than previously recognized.

Learn more at StateofTheAir.org