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Smog Report: Half of U.S. Still Flunks

L.A. Still Tops Lung Association 'Worst Air' List
WebMD Health News

May 1, 2003 -- Smog threatens the health of nearly half of all Americans, according to the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2003 report.

The report examines air quality data for 1999-2001, the most recent data from the EPA. It ranks air quality for ozone pollution.

Los Angeles holds on to its top ranking as the U.S. city with the worst air. Portland, Ore., and San Francisco are the two largest cities among the 20 cities with the best air.

The release of the report also marks the beginning of the annual ozone season, when the summer heat traditionally increases the level of smog.

The ALA's annual report looks at ozone levels across the country. Ozone, one of the most toxic ingredients in the soupy air we all know as smog, is a form of oxygen that even at low levels can cause health problems such as shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.

This year, the nation's air got a little bit better -- but that's only because of lucky weather, says ALA president John Kirkwood. Yet the report showed that 55% of counties with ozone monitors received an "F" rating on air quality.

"We can point to no significant ozone improvements other than a few lucky changes in the weather," Kirkwood says in a news release. "We can't depend on Mother Nature to protect Americans from disease and death caused by breathing human-made smog. It's time to fight for our right to breathe clean air and for America to solve the air pollution problems that Americans create."

The report is highly critical of the Bush administration's efforts to "repeal, weaken, and delay" the nation's Clean Air Act.

This year's 20 most polluted metropolitan areas are:

  1. Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, Calif.
  2. Fresno, Calif.
  3. Bakersfield, Calif.
  4. Visalia-Tulare-Porterville, Calif.
  5. Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, Texas
  6. Sacramento-Yolo, Calif.
  7. Merced, Calif.
  8. Atlanta, Ga.
  9. Knoxville, Tenn.
  10. Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, N.C.-S.C.
  11. Washington-Baltimore, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.V.
  12. Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas
  13. Philadelphia-Wilmington-Atlantic City, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md.
  14. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, Conn.-N.J.-N.Y.
  15. Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz.
  16. Baton Rouge, La.
  17. Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point, N.C.
  18. Memphis, Tenn.-Ark.-Miss.
  19. Birmingham, Ala.
  20. San Diego, Calif.

And the 20 metro areas with the least ozone air pollution, in alphabetical order:

  • Bellingham, Wash.
  • Brownsville-Harlingen-San Benito, Texas
  • Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • Duluth-Superior, Minn.-Wis.
  • Elkhart-Goshen, Ind.
  • Eugene-Springfield, Ore.
  • Fargo-Moorhead, N.D.-Minn.
  • Flagstaff, Ariz.-Utah
  • Greeley, Colo.
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Laredo, Texas
  • Lincoln, Neb.
  • Medford-Ashland, Ore.
  • Portland-Salem, Ore.-Wash.
  • Salinas, Calif.
  • San Francisco
  • San Luis Obispo-Atascadero-Paso Robles, Calif.
  • Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
  • Sioux Falls, S.D.
  • Spokane, Wash.

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