a flock of geese flying past a smokestack at the Jeffery Energy Center coal power plant near Emmitt, KSInternationalIndiaAfricaAccording to a new report by a health advocacy group, more than one-third of Americans live in areas given a failing grade for air quality. However, the data is incomplete, meaning the number could be even higher.Roughly 36% of the US population, or about 119.6 million people, live in areas given a failing grade for particle or ozone pollution, according to the latest State of the Air report by the American Lung Association. At such high levels, that kind of pollution has a markedly negative impact on people’s lifespans.“Years of scientific research have clearly established that particle pollution and ozone are a threat to human health at every stage of life, increasing the risk of premature birth, causing or worsening lung and heart disease, and shortening lives,” the report notes. “Some groups of people are more at risk of illness and death than others, because they are more likely to be exposed, or are more vulnerable to health harm, or often both.”However, the ALA noted several changes from previous years. For example, while noting that the report found about 17.6 million less people were exposed to air pollution in the 2023 report as compared to the 2022 report, thanks to policies reducing ozone pollution, they also noted that a record-high number of people were found to be living in counties with failing particle-pollution ratings, at just under 64 million people.They also noted there are major gaps in the data, which is dependent on counties that monitor air pollution. Just 922 US counties do so, accounting for about 79% of the US population, or 264 million people. Most of those that don’t monitor air pollution are rural.Science & TechGlobal Study Reveals There’s No Place on Earth You Can Be Fully Safe From Deadly Air Pollutants7 March, 03:58 GMTThe report also noted that “the burden of living with unhealthy air is not shared equally. Although people of color are 41% of the overall population of the US, they are 54% of the nearly 120 million people living in counties with at least one failing grade. And in the counties with the worst air quality that get failing grades for all three pollution measures, 72% of the 18 million residents affected are people of color, compared to the 28% who are white.”The worst offender for air pollution overall was Bakersfield, California, a city at the southern end of the Central Valley that is notorious for “air inversions” that trap air pollution in the city. It displaced Fresno and tied with Visalia, two other cities in the same valley. However, Los Angeles continued to occupy the spot for worst ozone pollution, as it has every year since the ALA started producing the State of the Air reports 24 years ago.The ALA called on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which handles air and water quality regulations, to implement stronger controls on ozone and particulate matter emissions, which were rolled back during the Trump administration.“Not only will stronger standards drive cleanup of polluting sources nationwide, they will also mean that families across the country are better informed about when their local air quality may put their health at risk,” the report states.Such regulations have played an important role in curbing air pollution in the past. Between 1990 and 2017, the emissions of air toxics in the United States declined by 74%. However, according to EPA numbers, in 2021 the US still emitted some 67 million tons of pollution into the air, including chemicals that deteriorate the quality of human life, but also that are amplifying global warming.


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