Over 185 million Americans live under skies so polluted it endangers life, according to a report released last week by the American Lung Association.
The report grades 900 US counties on an A to F scale for ozone (smog), annual particle pollution, and 24-hour particle pollution.
Cities ranking in the top 3 on ozone pollution were the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside metropolitan area, Bakersfield and Visalia-Porterville.
The three cities also top the charts for year-round particle pollution, and follow just behind Pittsburgh-New Castle at the top of the list on 24-hour particle pollution.
Fargo, North Dakota came up cleanest in all categories.
“60% of Americans are breathing air dirty enough to send people to the emergency room, to shape how kids’ lungs develop, and to kill,” said ALA Chairman Stephen Nolan.
The ALA report indicates that 175 million Americans live in areas where there is a dangerous abundance of days in which unhealthy ozone levels are present. Ozone irritates the lungs like a bad sunburn. It triggers asthma and shortens life expectancy.
Particle pollution is the “most dangerous and deadly of the outdoor air pollutants,” according to the ALA, because it “can increase the risk of early death, heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits for asthma and cardiovascular disease.”
One in 6 Americans lives in an area having unhealthy level of year-round fine particle pollution, and 30% reside in counties with unhealthy 24-hour levels, in which atmospheric fine particle concentrations spike to unhealthy levels for hours or even days.
“Air pollution can impair the lung function of even the healthiest people,” said Norman Edelman, the ALAs Chief Medical Officer, but “people with lung and heart disease (are) especially vulnerable,” he added.