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Report Finds 1 in 3 Living with Unhealthy Air Pollution

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April 19, 2023 -- Almost 120 million people in the United States, or more than 1 in 3, live amid unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to the American Lung Association’s new “State of the Air” Report.

The nation’s air quality overall has improved, but there are big differences between the air quality in the East and the West, and pollution affects people of color more than white people, the association said.

The association’s 24th annual report grades dangerous levels of ground-level ozone air pollution, annual particle pollution, and short-term spikes in pollution and covering 2019-21.

More than 64 million of the people living with bad air are people of color, the report says. And people of color were 64% more likely to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one measure, and 3.7 times as likely to live in a county with an F in all three.

Also, more than 18 million people in Western states are in counties that had three failing grades. The worst 25 counties for short-term particle solution were all in the West.

“The good news is that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act. In this year’s ‘State of the Air’ report, we found that 19.3 million fewer people are living in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone pollution, also known as smog,” said Harold Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association, in a press release.

“However, the fact is that 120 million people still live in places with unhealthy air pollution, and not all communities are seeing improvements. This is why it is crucial to continue our efforts to ensure that every person in the U.S. has clean air to breathe.”

The most polluted cities by ozone were Los Angeles-Long Beach, Visalia, Bakersfield, and Fresno-Madera-Hanford, all in California, and Phoenix-Mesa, AZ, the report says.

The most polluted by year-round particle pollution were Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno-Madera-Hanford, Los Angeles-Long Beach, all in California, and Fairbanks, AK.

The most polluted by short-term particle pollution were Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera-Hanford, Fairbanks, Visalia, and Reno-Carson City-Fernley, NV.

The cleanest cities, alphabetically, were: Asheville-Marion-Brevard, NC; Bangor, ME; Greenville-Kinston-Washington, NC; Lincoln-Beatrice, NE; Rochester-Batavia-Seneca Falls, NY; Urban Honolulu, HI; and Wilmington, NC.


Show Sources

American Lung Association: “State of the Air” and “A Nation’s Air Quality Divided: New Report Reveals Growing Disparities in Exposure to Air Pollution”

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