10th Annual Air Quality Report: How Does Your City Rate?

Bird subcommittee on trafficIf you’ve noticed it’s easier to breathe on some days than others, you’re not alone. In fact, this year marks the 10th annual American Lung Association State of the Air report, which has been tracking air quality across the United States for a decade. Just enter your zip code to learn how your area fares and what you can do to help make the air a little cleaner.

After sifting through the Executive Summary, we’ve chosen a few key points to share:

- Six out of ten people (61.7%) in the United States population live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution.

- Approximately 4 million children and 10.9 million adults with asthma live in parts of the United States with very high levels of ozone, and over 5.7 million adults and 2.1 million children with asthma live in areas with high levels of short-term particle pollution.

The nations needs to:

Clean up dirty power plants

Coal-fired power plants are among the largest contributors to particulate pollution, ozone, mercury and global warming. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should immediately take action to reduce emissions and expand clean-up requirements for power plants nationwide. The American Lung Association has taken legal action repeatedly to fight to require power plants to clean up.

Clean up the existing fleet of dirty diesel

The good news is that affordable technology exists to virtually eliminate this problem and the economic recovery legislation is investing $300 million at the EPA for the voluntary diesel retrofit program.

Clean up ocean-going vessels

Ocean-going vessels, like cruise ships, container ships and tankers, deliver staggering amounts of smog-forming oxides of nitrogen, particle pollution, sulfur dioxide and heat-trapping carbon dioxide. By 2030, these vessels will produce approximately 45 per cent of the national inventory of mobile source particle pollution emissions, harming health, worsening global warming and creating acid rain. New evidence shows that pollution from these vessels reaches parts of the country far inland from the 40 port cities that have recognized air pollution problems.

What can you do?

Drive less

Combine trips, walk, bike, carpool or vanpool, and use buses, subways or other alternatives to driving. Vehicle emissions are a major source of air pollution. Support community plans that provide ways to get around that don’t require a car, such as more sidewalks, bike trails and transit systems.

Don’t burn wood or trash

Check school busses

Make sure your local school system requires clean school buses, which includes replacing or retrofitting old school buses with filters and other equipment to reduce emissions.

Use less electricity

Turn out the lights and use energy-efficient appliances. Generating electricity is one of the biggest sources of pollution, particularly in the eastern United States.

Send a message to decision makers

Send an email or fax to urge Congress to oppose measures that weaken the Clean Air Act.

Take pride if you’ve been listed as one of the cleanest cities:

Fargo-Wahpeton, ND-MN emerged as the cleanest city in the U.S., the only city to appear on all three lists of cleanest cities. 17 cities appeared on two of the three lists of cleanest cities: Billings, MT; Bismarck, ND; Cheyenne, WY; Colorado Springs, CO; Farmington, NM; Ft. Collins, CO; Honolulu, HI; Lincoln, NE; Midland-Odessa, TX; Port St. Lucie, FL; Pueblo, CO; Redding, CA; Salinas, CA; San Luis Obispo, CA; Santa Fe-Espanola, NM; Sioux Falls, ND; and Tucson, AZ.

Image: Angelrays

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2 responses to “10th Annual Air Quality Report: How Does Your City Rate?”

  1. Looking over the list of cleanest cities its interesting how many of them are in the Great Plains or the Rocky Mountain foothills. I think their geography plays a bigger part in their status of cleanest air than anything else.

  2. Great roundup, Susan.

    Although it’s scientifically unconfirmed (so I believe), I’m sure that the startling rise in children born with asthma is clearly linked to degrading air quality. And as someone who suffers from it – and once nearly died having an attack of it – I think this is serious damage to the coming generations, not just a nuisance. It’s an ethical issue that faces industrial polluters. I’d certainly like some of them to see someone having a severe asthma attack, which is a terrifying experience, before they allow their companies to dump more filth into the air.