Half of the US population breathes unhealthy air

More than 142 million US citizens are breathing unhealthy amounts of ozone air pollution – making this the third year in a row that fully half the US public has had to endure air pollution, according to the American Lung Association.

Of the 678 counties where ozone is monitored, 400 received an ‘F’ grade in the Association’s State of the Air 2002 report. Three quarters of senior citizens and more than 70% of children who had an asthma attack in the last year live in these ‘F’ grade counties.

“It’s clearly time to get serious about enforcing all the provisions of the Clean Air Act so that we place Americans’ health above business and political interests,” said President and CEO of the American Lung Association, John L Kirkwood. “Yes, we’ve made great progress in cleaning our nation’s air, but this report illustrates that we have a long way to go to give our children safe air to breathe.”

The Association is gravely concerned about delays in implementation of the Clean Air Act, as a series of legal and other issues have led to some of the most significant protections being put on hold for the last five years. “More protective ozone standards effectively have been on hold due to challenges by industry, which have kept states relying on weaker standards they have used since 1979,” said Kirdwood. “Somehow, industry believes it needs to continue to pollute. They have fought every step we’ve taken toward cleaner air for all Americans.”

Four counties have joined the list of the 25 most ozone-polluted counties this year: DeKalb and Fayette Counties, Georgia; Sacramento, California; and Maricopa, Arizona. Among the 25 most ozone-polluted metropolitan areas this year, two – Birmingham, Alabama, and Macon, Georgia – were not on last year’s list.

Four metropolitan areas came off the list of the 25 most ozone-polluted between 2001 and 2002: Pittsburgh and Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Richmond-Petersburg, Virginia; and Louisville, Kentucky. Five counties – Camden, New Jersey; Imperial, California; Charles and Prince George’s, Maryland; and Denton, Texas – all dropped off that roster. Those localities, however, continued to receive an ‘F’ grade.

With the exception of Des Moines, Iowa, which dropped off the list, the rest of the metropolitan areas with the least ozone air pollution last year continued to remain consistent. In the following metropolitan areas, all of the counties with monitoring sites received an ‘A’: Bellingham, Washington; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Duluth-Superior, Minnesota/Wisconsin; Fargo-Moorhead, North Dakota/Minnesota; Flagstaff, Arizona/Utah; Honolulu, Hawaii; Laredo, Texas; Lincoln, Nebraska; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; Salinas, California; and Spokane, Washington.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie