News / USA

Health Group Finds Half of US Breathing Poor-Quality Air

Health Group Finds Half of US Breathing Poor-Quality Air
Health Group Finds Half of US Breathing Poor-Quality Air
Zulima Palacio

More than half the people in the United States are breathing air that could be threatening their health, according to the American Lung Association. The private health group has just released (April 27) its 12th annual State of the Air report, which ranks the quality of the air in U.S. cities and counties in terms of the most common types of air pollution.  

The 2011 State of the Air report says 53.3% of the U.S. population - more than 165 million people - suffer pollution levels that the report describes as " too often dangerous to breathe.” Janice Nolen, an assistant vice president at the American Lung Association, says the nation's air pollution has many sources.

“Driving down the highway, turning on the electricity contribute to some of the pollution sources because of the burning combustion, burning coal, burning gasoline or the diesel that is delivering food to our grocery store," she said.


The survey lists 25 major metropolitan areas with the worst air quality.  Most of the cities on this so-called  "black-list" are in the western state of California.

“They have a lot of people driving their cars.  They have a lot of (sea)ports with emissions from the barges and the trucks and the ocean vessels are contributing to that.  But they also have geography that keeps the pollution right where it sits, rather than letting it blow to other parts of the country," said Nolen.

The city of Honolulu in Hawaii, and Santa Fe in New Mexico, topped the list of cities with the cleanest air.

The survey's air-quality rankings measured and compared levels of ozone and particulates, the two most common types of air pollution.

Ozone is an invisible reactive gas found up in the upper atmosphere that shields the earth from much of the sun’s damaging ultraviolet radiation.  But at ground level, where we can breathe it, ozone is harmful.

When auto and industrial emissions combine with nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere and get heated by the sun, they create ozone pollution, also known as "smog."  “Ozone is more widespread but particle pollution is deadlier," said Nolen.

Particle pollution refers to very tiny solid and liquid particles of many different chemicals that are suspended in the air we breathe.  It is seen mostly in big cities with coal-fired power plants and heavy diesel truck traffic, such as Chicago, New York and Detroit.

“Air pollution can shorten your life for a lot of reasons," said Nolen.

Nearly 13 million people in the U.S. suffer from asthma, a chronic inflammatory disease of the breathing airways.  Air pollution makes asthma worse.  People with other severe health conditions - such as heart disease  -  are also more likely to suffer in polluted air.

Poor air quality can also mean higher costs for health care. Paul Billings directs national policy at the American Lung Association. "Air pollution does kill. Tens of thousands of people in the U.S. die prematurely each year because of elevated levels of particle pollution or soot and ozon," he said.

Even though the report only surveyed the U.S., air pollution is an international concern. Billings says in large cities like Beijing and Mexico City, the problem is severe :

“In fact, in the U.S. if we didn’t have the Clean Air Act we could have that level of air pollution in our large cities," said Bilings.

That 1970 legislation gave the U.S. government the authority to sanction air polluters and set emission standards. But from the beginning, political and corporate resistance has made it difficult to implement.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Resolve Nuclear Deal Issues

Leaders find resolution on issues of liability of suppliers to India in event of nuclear accident, U.S. demands to track whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid