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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid