Washington, D.C.– 133.9 million Americans—more than four in 10 (41.4 percent)—lived in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution in 2014-2016, placing them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm, according to the 19th annual national air quality report issued by the American Lung Association.
Ozone pollution worsened significantly due to warmer temperatures, while particle pollution generally continued to improve in 2014-2016.
Compared to the previous year, far more people suffered from unhealthy ozone pollution, with approximately 128.9 million people living in 185 counties that earned an F grade for ozone. Of the 10 most polluted cities, seven cities did worse, including Los Angeles and the New York City metro area.
The report finds that during 2014-2016, the year-round particle pollution levels continued to drop, maintaining a long-term trend, with a few notable exceptions, including Fairbanks, Alaska, where expanded monitoring newly identified the highest average levels in the nation. After spiking to record high levels in last year’s report, days with high short-term particle levels also dropped in most locations.
Most cities experienced fewer days of spikes in particle pollution, yet 35.1 million people lived in the 53 counties with too many days when particle pollution peaked at unhealthy levels. Bakersfield, California remained the city with the greatest short-term particle pollution levels.
The 2018 report, based on available but incomplete data, found that 9.8 million people lived in 16 counties where the annual average concentration of particle pollution was too high.