Toxic air U.S.: Levels in nine western cities at record high, 150 million affected

If you thought air in the United States was dirtier than it’s been at any other time in the country’s history, that is, before the Corona Virus outbreak, then this wasn’t your imagination running wild. The point is this is fact!And, if you believed the air in nine cities in the west experienced some of the worst episodes of polluted air ever, here again, you’d be correct.

The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report for 2020 provides details.

Not short on details either is an associated ALA Apr. 21, 2020 press release.

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, which is responsible for dramatic improvements in air quality. Despite this, a new report from the American Lung Association finds nearly half of the nation’s population – 150 million people – lived with and breathed polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. The 21st annual ‘State of the Air’ report finds that climate change continues to make air pollution worse, with many western U.S. communities again experiencing record-breaking spikes in particle pollution due to wildfires. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of air pollution on lung health is of heightened concern.”

In the 2020 report, data was analyzed from 2016, 2017 and 2018, those years’ “quality-assured air pollution data” being the most recent, the ALA offered. It is also important to note that those same three years were in the top five warmest in the recorded history of the world.

“When it comes to air quality, changing climate patterns fuel wildfires and their dangerous smoke, and lead to worsened particle and ozone pollution. This degraded air quality threatens everyone, especially children, older adults and people living with a lung disease,” the lung association added.

In all, for the trio of consecutive years in question, nearly 21 million Americans resided in counties with unhealthy concentrations of ozone or particle pollution or both, the ALA found.

That said, this isn’t to say that the quality of air in some communities didn’t improve. It did.

The following declaration from American Lung Association CEO Harold Wimmer was resolute: “‘To protect the advances in air quality we fought for 50 years ago through the Clean Air Act, we must again act today, implementing effective policies to protect our air quality and lung health against the threat of climate change,’” Wimmer insisted.

Air quality low-down: Worst-of-the-worst, best-of-the-best in U.S.

Top 10 most polluted cities for 24-hour fine particulate matter:

  1. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  2. Bakersfield, California
  3. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  4. Fairbanks, Alaska
  5. Yakima, Washington
  6. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  7. Missoula, Montana
  8. Redding-Red Bluff, California
  9. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
  10. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona

Top 10 most polluted cities for annual fine particulate matter:

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  3. Visalia, California
  4. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  5. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  6. Fairbanks, Alaska
  7. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
  8. El Centro, California
  9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-New Castle, Ohio-Weirton, West Virginia
  10. Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, Michigan

Top 10 most polluted cities for 8-hour ozone:

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  2. Visalia, California
  3. Bakersfield, California
  4. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  5. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  6. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, California
  7. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
  8. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  9. Las Vegas-Henderson, Nevada
  10. Denver-Aurora, Colorado

America’s healthiest-air cities:

  1. Bangor, Maine
  2. Burlington-South Burlington-Barre, Vermont
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii
  4. Wilmington, North Carolina

The bottom line

“‘The science is clear: the nation needs stronger limits on ozone and particle pollution to safeguard health, especially for children and people with lung disease,’ Wimmer said. ‘Every family has the right to breathe healthy air – and the right to know when air pollution levels are unhealthy. The Clean Air Act is a powerful protector of public health and Americans breathe healthier air today because of this landmark law. But climate change poses increasingly dire threats to air quality and lung health, and our leaders must take immediate, significant action to safeguard the air we all breathe.’”

Important information on the state of U.S. city, county and state air quality, the 2020 “State of the Air” report and much, much more can be had here.

Image above: United States Environmental Protection Agency, via Wikimedia Commons

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.