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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs