Air Pollution in United States: 2017 Report from the American Lung Association

Air Pollution in United States: More than 4 out of 10 Breathe “Bad Air”

On April 19, 2017, the American Lung Association issued a report of air pollution in United States during 2013-2015. The “State of the Air 2017” report looked at levels of ozone and particle pollution found in official monitoring sites across the United States in 2013, 2014 and 2015. View my post on August 29, 2016, which describes the different types of air pollution. Overall Findings The report shows that cleaning up pollution continues to be successful in much of the nation. In the 25 cities with the worst ozone and year-round particle pollution, the majority saw improvements. Many cities reached their lowest levels ever of widespread air pollution. Worst Cities for Particle Pollution Worst cities for air pollution in United States Six of the ten cities with the worst air pollution in United States are in California. Bakersfield again holds the distinction of having the most days of highly polluted air.
Aerial view shows air pollution in United States - Los Angeles

Aerial view of downtown Los Angeles skyline with San Gabriel mountains in background

Key Findings  1. Despite improvements in air quality over the three years, more than 4 of 10 people breathe unhealthy levels of air pollution. 2. Air pollution increases the risk of early death, lung cancer, breathing attacks for those with asthma or COPD, and heart disease. 3. Breathing ozone irritates the lungs resulting in something like a “bad sunburn.” 4. Particles may be smaller than 1/30th of the size of a human hair. When inhaled, they are small enough to get past the body’s natural defenses. 5. People of color and those earning lower incomes are often affected by air pollution. What Can You Do  1. Check daily air quality forecasts in your area. 2. Use less electricity. Use of electricity creates air pollution. 3. Drive less. Try to share rides and combine trips to reduce total driving. 4. Don’t burn wood or trash as these are among the major sources of particle pollution. 5. Don’t let anyone smoke indoors and support measures to make all public places tobacco free. 6. Make sure your local school system requires clean school buses.                                                                                         

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.