Nearly half of Americans breathe unsafe levels of air pollution

The American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report finds a pocket of eastern Idaho is one of the most polluted in the nation

The American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report finds a pocket of eastern Idaho is one of the most polluted in the nation

The most unhealthy city in the nation was Los Angeles, the report states.

The Albany-Schenectady metro area fell to 94th most polluted for ozone from 136 past year. Essex County scored a D on ozone, or smog, pollution (though that was a slight improvement over last year's F) on the Lung Association report card. It can irritate the lungs of people who breathe it.

Days when air quality reached into lower levels on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index were given greater weight in the analysis.

"PM2.5 is small enough to stay in our lungs, and over time can lead to exacerbations of existing lung conditions and can also lead to new lung disease", says Heather Kimmel, the executive director of the American Lung Association in Idaho. "Someone could go to the emergency room, and we know that asthma can kill people". The levels and composition of these pollutants vary from place to place, depending on what sources are present (e.g., power plants, heavy industry, traffic, and the household burning of solid fuels), weather conditions, and how they mix in the atmosphere.

"Ozone and particle pollution are especially harmful to children, seniors and those with asthma and other lung diseases".

Fairfield County, for example, had 50 high ozone days between 2014 and 2016, making it the most ozone polluted county east of the Mississippi.

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Ten of the state's 55 counties tracked data on high ozone days, with grades as follows: Berkeley, B; Cabell, C; Gilmer, B; Greenbrier, A; Hancock, C; Kanawha, C; Monongalia, B; OH, C; Tucker, B; and Wood, C. Of those, 11 scored F's; Morris County scored a D; and Atlantic, Cumberland and Warren counties scored C's.

For the third straight year, Lackawanna earned an "A" grade, with zero days of unhealthful air quality.

Because air pollution is not confined by state borders, the report measures metro areas rather than individual states. California is no exception, and being the orchard of the US with a large portion of its surface devoted to crops, makes it one large chimney spewing ozone constantly.

This is the 19th annual report, and several Wisconsin cities have the cleanest air when comparing ozone and particle pollution. In this year's report, Wilmington moved up to 12th, with its concentration of particle pollutants decreasing from 6.5 to 5.9. The San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and San Diego also made the top 10 lists. The San Joaquin Valley dominated the list of most polluted for short-term and year-round particle pollution with Visalia, Bakersfield and Fresno all landing in the top five. Of the 13 counties that monitor particle pollution in the state, all but one were graded A or B. Union County, the worst offender, received a C. "The number of people exposed to unhealthy level of air pollution increased to more than 133.9 million people, higher than the 125 million in the years covered by the 2017 report (2013-2015)".

That year had "a very hot summer" and was one of the hottest years overall - "definitely in OH", said Ken Fletcher, the lung association's advocacy director for Ohio. As the economy continues to grow, emissions that cause ozone and particle pollution continue to drop. "The nation must work to reduce emissions that worsen climate". Specifically, Hajna said it is common for ozone pollution from Pennsylvania and points south to blow northward into New Jersey.

"All administrations in New Jersey, going back decades, have taken air quality seriously", Hajna said.

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