In 2000 the American Lung Association published its first State of the Air report. For nearly 20 years, the organization has released a yearly “report card” that provides information and statistics on trends in air pollution within the United States. It uses air pollution data collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to grade cities and counties on their annual air quality. The report assigns a letter grade from A-F based on levels of ground-level ozone pollution (smog) and small particle pollution (gases, vehicle exhaust, ash, smoke, power plant exhaust, soil dust, pollen, etc.) These levels are measured daily year-round.
What Is Air Pollution?
Air pollution is the introduction of harmful toxins and substances into the atmosphere. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is the greatest environmental threat to human health. It is especially dangerous to the most vulnerable populations in our country and is estimated to be responsible for approximately 7 million premature deaths in the United States per year. Children, elderly citizens, those with chronic lung disease, heart disease, lung cancer or diabetes and those living in poverty are more likely to suffer the damaging health effects of poor air quality. For people with chronic lung conditions, exposure to increased levels of ozone and particle pollution in the air can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, decreased lung function, asthma attacks and more frequent flare-ups that require hospitalizations.
Key Findings From the 2019 State of the Air Report
The 2019 State of the Air report documented that 141.1 million people living in the United States are exposed to unhealthy air. This figure is an increase from 133.9 million people in the 2018 report. More cities across the nation experienced higher numbers of days when ozone and small particle pollution reached unhealthy levels.
Climate change is making a more significant impact on air pollution now than ever before. The years 2015 – 2017 were the 3 hottest years on record worldwide. Higher temperatures increase the creation of ground-level ozone, because ozone forms when sunlight mixes with emissions from vehicles and industrial buildings. Climate change also increases the likelihood of extreme weather events like wildfires, hurricanes and floods. These severe weather conditions introduce more dust, smoke and allergens into the air.
The good news is that air pollution emissions have been declining for the past 50 years, according to the State of the Air report. Since 1970 the air has become cleaner, even as the population, economy, number of cars on the road and energy expenditure has increased. For the future, our challenge will be to reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels for transportation and power.
Resources for People With Chronic Lung Disease
If you are suffering from a chronic lung disease, you can easily check your hometown’s air quality using the EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) tool. The AQI provides a day to day forecast of how polluted the air is in any given area. You can find the most updated information online anytime at airnow.gov.
At Lung Health Institute, we are always looking for ways to help our patients Breathe Easier™. For people with chronic lung conditions, we offer cellular therapy lung treatments and Anti-Inflammatory Initiative™ (AI²™) wellness plans.
If you are interested in learning more about our services, contact one of our patient coordinators today.