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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs