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Many Americans are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution

About 4 in every 10 people live in an area with significant air pollution, according the American Lung Association.
Poor air quality
Posted at 6:06 PM, Apr 24, 2024

At least 131 million people in the U.S. are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to this year's "State of the Air" report released by the American Lung Association.

About 4 in every 10 people live in an area with significant air pollution, according to the report.

“We have to continue to work together as a nation to bring that number down because it’s not acceptable,” said Katherine Pruitt, lead author and senior director of nationwide clean air policy for the American Lung Association.

Worst year-round air particle pollution:

1. Bakersville, California
2. Visalia, California
3. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
4. Eugene-Springfield, Oregon
5. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California

Climate change continues to drive up the number of people facing short-term pollution. The data for the report comes from 2020-2022. “We’ve seen six straight years of increases in the number of people living with unhealthy levels of short-term particle pollution,” said Pruitt.

Worst short-term air particle pollution:

1. Bakersfield, California
2. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
3. Fairbanks, Alaska
4. Eugene-Springfield, Oregon
5. Visalia, California

Particulate pollution in the air is smaller than a strand of human hair and can travel deep into the smallest parts of our lungs. It can worsen chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and allergies and contribute to heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

Los Angeles ranked the worst with ozone air pollution — that's been the case for 24 of the 25 years of the report. Dr. Jessica Hui, an allergist with National Jewish Health told Scripps News she’s seeing more patients because of more air pollution.

“Anywhere from irritation of the skin to difficulty breathing, to significant seasonal allergy symptoms: All of these are definitely on the rise. And I would say the severity of it that I’m seeing a lot is in young kids with more severe symptoms,” said Hui.

She adds patients should share with their doctor if they’re feeling any allergy symptoms — especially if they are new or have gotten worse.