The verdict is in – the American Lung Association has released the State of the Air 2009 report. So, who are taking in a breath of fresh air and who are not?
Two types of air pollution are monitored: particle and ozone pollution. Their levels are used as the basis for ranking metropolitan areas. For particle pollution, rankings are divided into year-round or annual average levels and short-term or 24-hour levels. Particle pollution refers to pollution due to pollutants composed of soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols. Ozone, on the other hand, is a gas that is formed as sunlight reacts with pollutants such as car emissions.
The cleanest U.S. city for ozone air pollution is Billings, MT, followed by Carson City, NV and Coeur d’Alene, ID. The most populous city among the top ten cleanest cities for ozone air pollution is Honolulu, HI, with a population of more than 900,000. Honolulu also ranks third among the top cleanest cities for long-term particle pollution.
In contrast, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, with a population of more than 17.7 million people, is ranked as the most ozone-polluted city in the United States, followed by Bakersfield, Visalla-Porterville and Fresno-Madera. The 4 most ozone-polluted cities are all in the state of California, and Los Angeles has held this ranking nine times over the last decade. The New York-Newark-Bridgeport area, distributed among the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania with a population of almost 22 million people, is ranked 17th. They are tied with the St.Louis-St. Charles-Farmington area in Missouri and Illinois.
Reuters UK estimates that 6 in 10 Americans – estimated at about a total of 186 million people – live with the dangers of air pollution. This is despite the fact that it has been almost 4 decades since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970.