America’s air is getting cleaner, but there is still much work to be done according to the American Lung Association's latest State of the Air 2012 report.
Since its inception in 1970, the Clean Air Act has helped cut pollution substantially in the US. Because of policies designed to support the Clean Air Act, there have been improvements in air quality.
This latest report shows that since 1990, U.S. CO2 emissions have dropped by 59%. As well, air quality has improved since 2001 with year-round particle pollution down by 24% and short-term particle pollution down by 28%.
Also worth noting: Six cities that were once ranked as the most polluted dropped off the list entirely since the last report. Those cities include New York, Detroit, Modesto, Knoxville, Lancaster and York, PA. 22 of the 25 cities with the most ozone pollution on last year’s list have improved greatly. Overall, the list of the cleanest cities in terms of ozone pollution, year-round and short-term particle pollution is still short with only Santa Fe emerging as the cleanest in all categories.
Still, the sobering reality is that 127 million people (41% of the nation) currently live in regions with significantly high pollution levels.
While a lot of progress has been made, we still have a long way to go. According to the report:
4 in 10 people live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone. Unhealthy levels of ozone pollution have been linked to decreased lung function, respiratory infection, lung inflammation and other respiratory maladies.
Almost 1 in 6 people live in an area with unhealthy levels of short-term particle pollution. These short-term spikes in pollution can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other serious health risks.
Nearly 6.4 million people live with unhealthy levels of year-round particle pollution.
More than 5.7 million people live with unhealthy levels of all three types of pollution.
The report recommends that in order to combat these negative impacts, Americans can do the following:
Protect the Clean Air Act
Clean up dirty power plants.
Clean up industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and incinerators.
Clean up the existing fleet of dirty diesel vehicles and heavy equipment.
Strengthen particle pollution standards.
Cut tailpipe emissions.
You can read the full report here.