California and other western states lead in air pollution levels


Smoke hangs over the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge in San Francisco, Calif., Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

California and other western states are experiencing dirtier air quality due to worsening heat, drought and wildfires, and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to pollution, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association.

THE Report “State of the air” found that nearly 120 million people, more than a third of the population, lived in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution between 2019 and 2021. And more than 64 million people of color lived in counties with higher pollution levels, including more than half of people who live with unhealthy air quality, according to the report.

Cities in the western United States, where climate change has led to worsening heat waves, droughts and wildfires, rank among the most polluted areas for ozone pollution at the level soil and fine particulate air pollution, according to the report.

The report assigned letter grades reflecting the number of days the air quality in a specific area reached unhealthy levels on the Air Quality Index. Particle pollution refers to tiny pollutants from sources such as factories, power plants, vehicles, and forest fires, while ozone smog comes from vehicles, factories, or other sources industrial.

Between 2019 and 2021, about 103 million people lived in the 124 counties that received an F rating for ozone smog. Exposure to unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution makes it harder for more people across the United States to breathe than any other pollutant, according to the report.

Californian cities top the ranking of the most polluted cities in the country:

Top 10 cities most polluted by ozone:

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
  2. Visalia, California
  3. Bakersfield, California
  4. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  5. Phoenix-Mesa, AZ
  6. Denver-Aurora, CO
  7. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  8. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA
  9. Houston-The Woodlands, TX
  10. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT

Meanwhile, more than 64 million Americans reside in counties with F grades for daily particulate pollution peaks. Wildfires in the region have been a major factor in increasing the number of days and places with unhealthy levels of particulate pollution, according to the report.

Bakersfield, which is located north of Los Angeles, is ranked #1 for daily, year-round particulate pollution:

Top 10 cities with the worst daily particulate pollution:

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  3. Fairbanks, Alaska
  4. Visalia, California
  5. Reno-Carson City-Fernley, NV
  6. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
  7. Redding-Red Bluff, California
  8. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  9. Chico, California
  10. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA

Top 10 cities with the worst particulate pollution all year round:

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Visalia, California
  3. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  4. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
  5. Fairbanks, Alaska
  6. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  7. Medford-Grants Pass, OR
  8. Phoenix-Mesa, AZ
  9. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
  10. Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, IN

According to the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, air pollution reduces the world’s average life expectancy by more than two years. Sixty percent of particulate air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels.

The report found that people of color are almost four times more likely than white people to reside in an area with unhealthy levels of ozone smog and particulate pollution.

Harold Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in a statement that national ozone pollution levels were improving but “not all communities are seeing improvements.”

“That’s why it’s crucial to continue our efforts to ensure that every person in the United States has clean air to breathe,” Wimmer said.

The report used data from air quality monitors operated by state, local and tribal air pollution control authorities in counties across the country. The authors noted that more than 71 million Americans live in counties where ozone and particulate pollution levels are currently not monitored.

The report’s authors noted that climate change makes it more difficult to protect human health because disasters such as heat, drought and wildfires exacerbate high ozone levels and increased fine particulate matter.

The American Lung Association has called on the Biden administration to move forward with several measures to clean up national air pollution, including new limits on ozone and particulate pollution and new measures to mitigate emissions. power plants and vehicles.

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