Pollution, Smog Harm Half of All Americans
WASHINGTON, DC, April 30, 2004 (ENS) - Over half the
people in the United States, 55 percent, live in counties where the
levels of ozone or particle pollution are harmful to their health,
says a new report from the American Lung Association. The Los Angeles
Metropolitan Area is the worst, the report finds, both for ground
level ozone, or smog, and for particle pollution, which the association
assessed for the first time this year.
The two next most contaminated cities for both pollutants are Fresno
and Bakersfield, in California's Central Valley.
"State of the Air: 2004" shows that some 159 million Americans
live in 441 counties where they are exposed to unhealthy levels of
air pollution either in the form of ozone or in the form of short
term or year round levels of particles.
When it comes to measuring ground level ozone, seven out of the 10
worst cities are all in California, and when measured at the county
level, California takes the bottom again.
“Americans need to know about unhealthy air pollution in their
communities,” said John Kirkwood, American Lung Association
president and CEO. “The threat may be invisible to the human
eye, but it is real - and it can kill."
"This is why the American Lung Association is fighting hard
to protect tools in the Clean Air Act that can clean up the pollution
- a tool that the administration has taken steps to roll back,”
This aerial view shows air pollution at San Pedro in Los Angeles
County. (Photo courtesy Caltrans)
The association is using the results of its report to urge Americans
to contact members of Congress to oppose any bills that would weaken
the Clean Air Act and to oppose the Bush Administration’s Clear
Skies Initiative, which it says is less protective than the Clean
America's air would be even dirtier without 34 years of protection
under the Clean Air Act, according to the the Lung Association, which
says, "The air is cleaner than it was in 1970. However, cleaner
is not clean enough."
There are clean air cities in the United States too. Santa Fe, New
Mexico tops the association's list of Top 25 Cleanest Cities for Year-Round
Particle Pollution. Honolulu, Hawaii is second, and Cheyenne, Wyoming
is third cleanest in the nation.
For the first time, the American Lung Association’s annual
report on the state of the country's air uses data from a new, national
air quality surveillance network to go beyond its traditional analysis
of smog, or ozone air pollution, to include particle pollution.
Ranked fourth worst for short term particle pollution is Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, followed by Eugene-Springfield, Oregon in fifth worst
place. Birmingham, Alabama is sixth; Salt Lake City is next, and then
California cities show up again - the capital Sacramento, and Visalia,
again in the Central Valley.
For the first time, the American Lung Association’s annual
State of the Air report uses data from a new, national air quality
surveillance network to go beyond its usual analysis of smog to include
These particles, produced by power plant emissions, diesel exhaust
and wood burning, among other sources, are complex microscopic bits
that are one-thirtieth the width of a human hair.
Rush hour in Denver, Colorado where particle pollution is a problem
for the 10,000 kids and 32,000 adults with asthma. (Photo by Warren
Gretz courtesy NREL)
They can cause serious health problems even at relatively low concentrations
and are responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths in the
U.S. each year, according to the report.
People with cardiovascular diseases, children and the elderly are
most vulnerable to the health risks associated with particle pollution,
as are tens of millions of people who suffer from chronic lung disease
such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“The dangerous thing about these fine particles is that they
are tiny enough to penetrate the body’s natural defense systems,”
said Norman Edelman, MD, the American Lung Association’s consultant
for scientific affairs. “This means when you inhale these particles,
they embed themselves deep in the lungs. Some may even pass through
the lungs to the blood.”
The South Coast Air Quality Management District is the government
agency responsible for air pollution in the urbanized portions of
Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. District
experts say particle pollution comes in a wide variety of compounds
and sizes. Sea salt, blowing soil, road dust, soot and smoke, pollen,
nitrate and sulfate from industries are just a few of these substances.
The complex and dangerous health effects of particle pollution were
confirmed in a National Research Council report released in March
The American Lung Association report has plenty of numbers to consider.
Specifically at risk for particle pollution are:
* The 16.7 million people with cardiovascular disease living in
areas with unhealthy short-term particle pollution levels such as
Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, or Eugene. Even short-term exposure –
several hours to several days – has been linked to premature
death, heart attacks and stroke, the Lung Association says.
* The 3.6 million adults and a 1.4 million children with asthma
exposed to unhealthy year-round particle levels such as those living
in Los Angeles, California's Central Valley, Pittsburgh, Detroit,
Atlanta or Cleveland.
* The 2.6 million people with chronic bronchitis and 888,000 with
emphysema living in areas with short term particle pollution.
There are ways for parents to protect their children from unhealthy
air, and most of them involve awareness and physical activity. The
Lung Association says parents should try to limit the amount of time
their child spends outdoors in vigorous play if the air quality is
All children’s outdoor activities should be as far as possible
from busy roadways and other sources of pollution, the association
Here are some don'ts: Don't smoke around children, especially indoors,
and don't let others smoke in your home or car. Do not burn wood,
which creates particle pollution indoors and out. Don’t burn
And here are some do's: Encourage your child to walk, use bicycles
and take public transportation. Walk, bike and take public transportation
with your child to encourage him or her to help clean up the air.
Encourage your child’s school to look at ways to clean up school
buses, the association says. "While school buses are a safe way
for children to get to school, most buses use heavily polluting diesel
engines. Newer fuels and engines are cleaner. Many school systems
are using EPA’s Clean School Bus Campaign to clean up these
Find the full report and find the facts on your location with a clickable
map at: http://lungaction.org/reports/stateoftheair2004.html
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All