American Lung Association publishes 24th annual ‘State of the Air’ report

In the year 2000, the American Lung Association launched its annual “State of the Air” report to provide the public with easy-to-understand information about the quality of the air in their local communities based on Environmental Protection Agency data.

The EPA have set limits, called National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), for six dangerous outdoor air pollutants: particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead. State of the Air concentrates on the two which it considers the most widespread and dangerous: fine particulate matter and ozone.

Originally State of the Air focused solely on ozone pollution and included data for five populations at increased risk – children, older adults, children with asthma, adults with asthma and people with emphysema but over the years the categories of vulnerable groups has grown to ten.

The report is very much aimed at the public. It issues report cards on individual areas so people can see how their own city or county measures up against others. It also contains references to recent research on how air pollution affects health and advice on how people can try to keep themselves safe.  

State of the Air says: ‘We invite you to take advocacy action with the American Lung Association. Our report includes policy recommendations for every level of government. Your voice is powerful, and when you tell your leaders that your lungs depend on stronger limits on air pollution, you make a compelling case. Please share your story and add your name to our petition—and then, take the next step. Reach out to your representatives at every level of government, share the ‘State of the Air’ results for your community, and call on them to take action to protect public health.

The latest figures show that 119.6 million people, nearly 36% of Americans, live in places with failing grades for unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution – an increase on last year’s figures. 

It does however describe falling levels of ozone around the country as a result of the Clean Air Act.

Geographically, the industrialised states that dominated the lists in its early days, such as New Jersey, New York and Ohio, are now getting a clean bill of health. Of the 111 counties that scored F in this year’s report, 103 of them are in the West.

Socially, people of colour make up 54% of the 120 million people living in counties with a failing grade although they only represent 41% of the national population. And in the counties with the absolute worst air quality, 72% are people of colour, compared to the 28% who are white.

Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association said: ‘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.

‘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.’


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