Nearly 44 percent of Americans live in areas with dangerous levels of ozone or particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association's annual "State of the Air" report, published yesterday.
The good news is that's actually an improvement over last year's report, which showed that 47 percent of the population lived in these highly polluted places. Overall, the air has been getting cleaner since Congress enacted stricter regulations in the 1970s, and the American Lung Association report, which looked at data from 2011 through 2013, showed a continuing drop in the air emissions that create the six most widespread pollutants.
But don't pat yourself on the back just yet. Many cities experienced a record number of days with high levels of particle pollution, a mixture of solid and liquid droplets in the air that have been linked to serious health problems. Short-term particle pollution was especially bad in the West, in part due to the drought and heat, which may have increased the dust, grass fires and wildfires. Six cities—San Francisco; Phoenix; Visalia, California; Reno, Nevada.; Yakima, Washington; and Fairbanks, Alaska—recorded their highest weighted average number of unhealthy particle pollution days since the American Lung Association started covering this metric in 2004.
It's not all bad news. We're the #1 cleanest metro area for 24-hour particle pollution, but 8th worst for year-round pollutants. Kinda weird, but that describes this place with weather systems quickly moving in and out of here. We clean out pollution in the air super fast, it just gets replaced almost immediately by new pollution.