Skip to content

Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Nation's Air Improving, Even in L.A.

Air Quality in Most Polluted Cities Is Best in Over a Decade, Report Finds
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 25, 2012 -- People who live in the nation's most polluted cities are breathing cleaner air than they have in over a decade, according to new data released today by the American Lung Association (ALA).

The group's annual "State of the Air" report highlights successes in lowering pollution levels across the nation while mentioning the ALA's struggles to maintain federal laws aimed at protecting the air Americans breathe.

"We have seen continued progress in cleaning up air pollution across the nation, but more than 127 million people still live in places that have unhealthy air," says ALA National Policy Advisor Janice Nolen.

Air Cleaner in L.A., Other Cities

The ALA ranks cities on three separate lists: most bouts of short-term particle pollution, most year-round particle pollution, and ozone pollution.

Southern and Central Californians in key counties continue to be exposed to highest levels of particle pollution and smog (ozone), but Nolen says air quality has improved dramatically in many areas of the state.

Los Angeles remained the city with the worst ozone levels, but in 2010 L.A. reported its fewest unhealthy ozone days since the first annual report was issued 13 years ago.

And the city is no longer tops in the nation for highest year-round and short-term particle pollution levels. That dubious honor now belongs to Bakersfield, Calif., with Los Angeles ranking third and fourth in those two categories, respectively.

"I would have expected Los Angeles to continue to top all these lists, but the city has been moving down in recent years," Nolen says.

The ALA report credits the federal Clean Air Act for cleaning up coal-fired power plants and reducing emissions from diesel-engine vehicles and SUVs.

Despite the improvements, ALA President Charles D. Connor called existing air quality standards "woefully outdated" in a statement, noting that millions of Americans are still exposed to unhealthy air every day.

Santa Fe Has Best Air

The report identified the 25 cities with the highest and lowest levels of smog and particle pollution, or soot, which is a dangerous mix of microscopic ash, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals, and aerosols. (Full lists can be found below.)

Today on WebMD

man coughing
You may not even know you have it.
blood clot
Signs of this potentially fatal complication.
 
man coughing
When a cold becomes bronchitis.
human lungs
Causes behind painful breathing, fluid buildup.
 

Bronchitis Overview
SLIDESHOW
Copd Myth Fact Quiz
QUIZ
 
Living With Copd
VIDEO
Energy Boosting Foods
SLIDESHOW
 

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

cigarette butts snuffed out in ashtray
SLIDESHOW
Healthy Home Health Check
TOOL
 
Senior woman stretching
Article
Diagnosing Copd
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections