142 Million Americans Breathing Dirty Air!

New York-More than 142 million Americans—75 percent of the nation’s population
living in counties with ozone monitors—are breathing unhealthy amounts of ozone
air pollution (smog), representing the third straight year in which the toxic
pollutant reached fully half of the American public, according to the American
Lung Association’s State of the Air 2002 report.

Of those living in the 678 counties monitoring ozone, the vast majority of the
most vulnerable lived in the nearly 400 counties receiving an “F,” including
nearly three-quarters of the seniors and more than 70 percent of children who
had an asthma attack in the last year. The findings are compounded by the
reality that, due to a series of legal and management delays, states are relying
on weak federal clean air standards in place since 1979.

Among those metropolitan areas scoring “Fs,” the 10 most ozone-polluted areas
are Los Angeles-Riverside- Orange County, Calif.; Bakersfield, Calif.; Fresno,
Calif.; Visalia-Tulare- Porterville, Calif.; Houston- Galveston-Brazoria, Texas;
Atlanta, Ga.; Merced, Calif.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Charlotte- Gastonia-Rock Hill,
N.C.- S.C.; and Sacramento-Yolo, Calif.

“It is clearly time to get serious about enforcing all of the provisions of the
Clean Air Act so that we place Americans’ health above business and political
interests,” said John L. Kirkwood, American Lung Association president and CEO.
“Yes, we’ve made great progress in cleaning our nation’s air, but this report
illustrates that we have a long way to go to give our children safe air to

The release of State of the Air 2002 also marks the beginning of the American
Lung Association’s annual Clean Air Month campaign. The report examines ozone
air quality data for 1998-2000, which is the most recent quality- assured data
from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report grades and ranks
counties on how often their air quality reaches “unhealthful” categories of the
EPA’s Air Quality Index for ozone air pollution.

Ozone Coast to Coast and in Between

Not surprisingly, big cities on both coasts are among the 25 most ozonepolluted
cities, including Los Angeles, Washington, and New York. But many big, medium
and smaller-sized cities in between are also subjected to very dirty air. The
Houston metropolitan area is the fifth most ozone-polluted city, for the third
time in a row. Atlanta is number six for the second year. Some medium and
smaller cities suffer more ozone pollution than the nation’s largest city;
Phoenix, Arizona; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Charlotte, North Carolina all had
higher levels of ozone than New York City. Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee;
Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Birmingham, Alabama; Raleigh-Durham- Chapel Hill, North
Carolina; and Macon, Georgia are among the others on the list.

Some cities produce their own high levels of ozone pollution from local traffic
and industry, while many also suffer from pollution blown in from other
communities or large power plants outside their region. Even some suburban or
rural areas without major industry or large populations are subjected to
pollution blown in from other communities.

© 2002 South Dade Monitor, Inc.