Odds Are, You're Breathing Bad Air
WebMD News Archive
Welcome, sulphur dioxide,
Hello, carbon monoxide,
The air, the air is ev'rywhere.
- from the 1968 musical "Hair," lyrics by James Rado
& Gerome Ragni
May 1, 2002 -- If you're an American, you're probably breathing
bad air. For the third straight year, more than half of U.S. residents live in
areas with dangerous smog.
The finding comes from the 2002 edition of the American Lung
Association's annual State of the Air report. The bottom line: of the 678 U.S.
counties monitoring air, nearly 400 get an "F" grade from the ALA. The
failing grade means that these areas had levels of ozone -- a major ingredient
in smog -- that made the air unhealthy to breathe for at least nine days.
Part of every year's State of the Air message is a ranking of
the best and worst air in the nation. Here are the 10 most polluted urban
- Los Angeles (Riverside/Orange counties)
- Bakersfield, Calif.
- Fresno, Calif.
- Visalia-Tulare-Porterville, Calif.
- Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, Texas.
- Merced, Calif.
- Knoxville, Tenn.
- Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC
- Sacramento, Calif.
And, in alphabetical order, here are the 11 urban areas with
the least air pollution:
- Bellingham, Wash.
- Colorado Springs, Co.
- Duluth-Superior, Minn.-Wisc.
- Fargo-Moorhead, N.D.-Minn.
- Flagstaff, Ariz.
- Honolulu, Hawaii.
- Laredo, Texas.
- Lincoln, Neb.
- McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
- Salinas, Calif.
- Spokane, Wash.
So which people are most at risk? Children, of course, and
people with chronic lung diseases. But you're not off the hook if you're
healthy. Athletes and people who work outdoors are also at increased risk of
lung damage from air pollution, says Norman H. Edelman, MD. Edelman is the
ALA's scientific consultant and is vice-president and dean of the SUNY-Stony
Brook School of Medicine.
"We've still got a big problem. I get very frustrated,"
Edelman tells WebMD. "It is personal for me. I take care of a lot of asthma
patients. They tell me when they can breathe and when they cannot. And very
often they cannot."
This year, Edelman and the ALA want you to help. The
public-health organization is asking people to write to their elected
representatives and to President Bush to demand enforcement of existing
clean-air regulations. For the first time, the ALA is providing an easy way to
write these letters at their web site, lungusa.org.