A new American Lung Association report shows a major improvement in air pollution in the US. The 18th annual “State of the Air” report was released Wednesday, and despite major improvements, the report also documented spikes in short-term particle pollution related to climate change. About 1 in 4 Americans still reside in areas with dangerously high levels of air pollution.
According to Harold Wimmer, the ALA’s president and CEO, “This is simply unacceptable. Everyone has a fundamental right to breathe healthy air. Our nation’s leaders must do more to protect the health of all Americans.”
The report examines data collected between 2013 and 2015, measuring particle pollution and ozone pollution. Both pollutants can lead to health problems such as asthma, cancer, as well as reproductive and cardiovascular problems.
The ALA report calls directly on President Donald Trump, EPA chief Scott Pruitt, and congress, to work to improve air quality. According to the report, this includes action to fight climate change by reduction of carbon emissions.
Trump signed an executive order last month to reverse many of his predecessor’s measures to address climate change.
The ALA documented 204 counties, where 39 percent of the US population are exposed to dangerous levels of ozone or particle pollution. That includes about 25 percent fewer people than last year’s report, which found 52 percent of the population was living in such areas.
The report documents three year cycles, so part of the reason for improvement was that this report did not include 2012 – a year with unusually high air pollution. However, other improvements were still tracked around the country. According ALA vice president for national policy, Janice Nolen, “one of the great things about doing this report for 18 years is we’ve seen the progress, especially in ozone.”
Of the 25 cities with the worst ozone pollution, twenty experienced a reduction in the number of high-ozone days, according to the report. Out of the 25 cities with the highest levels of particle pollution, 15 saw improvement. However, among cities with the worst short-term particle pollution from events such as drought and wildfires saw more days with high levels of this pollution, exacerbated by climate change.
The report reads:
“The ‘State of the Air 2017’ report adds to the evidence that a changing climate [is] making it harder to protect human health.”