Air Quality Actually Getting Better

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It’s getting to be the time of year when air quality makes a daily appearance in weather forecasts. Lists come out showing the poorest cities, respiratory-wise. We hear of the pollution drifting from collective tailpipes and smokestacks and how our lungs are bearing the brunt, and that asthma rates are climbing.

But hold on a second; there is good news in all this. According to the American Lung Association, the air is getting better. In the past decade, the number of days with unhealthy air quality has steadily diminished.

Significant improvement has been made in air quality over most parts of the country (particularly the east) and it’s believed that reduced emissions from power plants could be responsible for it.

Scientists have looked at the time span of 2002 to 2004 to measure the number of days deemed to have air with unhealthy levels of pollutants or smog. They took the measurement from ozone monitors in 735 counties around the U.S. In that recent three-year span, there was a grand total of 8,500 days with air that was unhealthy to breathe.

Then they checked out a three-year period from 1996 to 1998. They researchers found that ozone monitors in fewer counties (678) reported more poor air quality days: 10,200 to be precise. At face value, it’s a bit of reassurance for those of us concerned about the air we breathe. Still, more than 150 million Americans live in counties that have unhealthy levels of soot or smog. And there are a lot of people in society who suffer significantly from the air quality: older adults, children and teenagers, and anyone with heart disease, diabetes, ! and lung conditions such as emphysema. The researchers found that roughly 15% of the population lives in the 34 counties that have poor levels of both soot and smog.

So where might you stand in the scheme of things? Well, if you live near a seaport, then you?re already at a disadvantage, as researchers have found that tug boats, diesel trains, ferries, and other vessels are polluters in major cities with working ports. Cities ranking the worst in the nation for air pollution regularly include: Los Angeles, CA (and other cities in California); New York, NY; Newark, NJ; Bridgeport, CT; Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD; Pittsburgh, PA; Cleveland, OH; and St. Louis, MO.

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