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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs