For 19 years now, the Los Angeles/Long Beach area, California, is the most ozone- polluted city in the USA. That is also the number of years which the American Lung Association has been presenting its annual “State of the Air Report” informing Americans about the quality of the air in our cities.
Out of the 10 most polluted cities in the country, eight are in California. According to the report; 133 million Americans are at risk from premature death, because of the continual unhealthy levels of air pollution.
Data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) worryingly show that four out of ten people face serious health problems, including lung cancer, asthma and cardiovascular issues, because they live in counties with unhealthy air. Air pollution is also a major contributor to developmental and fertility issues and all these problems are costing the country billons in health care.
New York – Newark, NY and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona, were the only two cities from other states with a place in the top ten. The city with the worst short-term particle pollution was Bakersfield, but Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Fresno-Madera, Sacramento-Roseville, San Diego-Carlsbad, Modesto-Merced and Redding-Red Bluff, all in California are all featured on the list with the worst. The most polluted city for year-round pollution was Fairbanks, Alaska.
It is unfortunate that not a single city in California has made it on the list of the 15 cities with the cleanest air. The cleanest cities are Bellingham, Washington; Burlington, Vermont; Casper, Wyoming; Honolulu; Melbourne, Florida and Wilmington, North Carolina.
Overall, particle pollution, which includes wildfire smoke and diesel exhaust, was down across the country, but ozone pollution, aggravated by warmer temperatures worsened. Other contributors to particle pollution include chemicals, metals, acids and dust and these are all small enough to enter the bloodstream and also lead to asthmatic attacks.
Climate change has been singled out as the major contributor to ozone levels. The director of the American Lung Association’s Healthy Air campaign, Lyndsay Moseley, believes that the country is still far from solving the air pollution problem.
On warm sunny days, smog forms, which is then worsened by the pollution from industries, power plants and vehicle emissions.
Even though it has done more than other states, why does California continue to rank so high on the list? The state is not sitting idly and has implemented strict laws on tailpipe pollution, while also eliminating coal-fired power plants. Things would have been far worse if it hadn’t put these measures into place.
California wants to keep to the standards that it implemented during the Obama administration on coordinated fuel economy rules. These are to be made stricter every year until 2025, with the car companies agreeing to comply. Under the Trump administration, the EPA is considering rolling these targets back. That is because the new administration believes that these fuel economy standards are hurting U.S. auto makers.
The overall report is mixed because even though some cities have seen improvements, especially on the eastern half of the country, the western side had a record number of days when they recorder high short-term particle pollution according to Janice Nolen, vice president of the association.
California continues to have low air quality scores due the fact that it is more susceptible to drought conditions, which result in increased ozone levels or smog. According to Nolen, the higher the temperatures become, the more difficult it will be to clean up ozone.
Both Federal and State policy makers are going to have to work harder together to ensure that as a nation, the USA can provide it population with a fighting chance of breathing in cleaner air.