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Report: More than half of Americans living with unhealthy levels of air pollution

By Shawn Price
Report: More than half of Americans living with unhealthy levels of air pollution
The American Lung Association's annual "State of the Air" report noted that a majority of Americans, or about 52 percent live with unhealthy levels of a air pollution. The organization said it will directly lead to various negative health effects like asthma, lung cancer and reproductive damage. Photo by akiyoko/Shutterstock.

WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) -- More than half of Americans are living with unhealthy levels of air pollution, a new American Lung Association report found.

Despite steady improvements in air quality across the county, about 166 million Americans are at risk of some type of negative health effects from living with unhealthy air, the American Lung Association announced in their annual State of the Air report.

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The report noted about 52.1 percent of people in the United States will have shorter lives and suffer serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive damage due to air pollution.

"Thanks to cleaner power plants and cleaner vehicles, we see a continued reduction of ozone and year-round particle pollution," said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "There are still nearly 20 million people in the United States that live with unhealthful levels of all three measures of air pollution the report tracks -- ozone, short-term and year-round particle pollution."

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The annual report noted short-term spikes in particle pollution worsened last year. The spikes have been linked directly to drought and wildfires, which climate change will likely exacerbate. However, year-round particle pollution fell in many cities.

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The 10 cities or regions in the report with the worst particle pollution were (in order): Bakersfield, Visalia-Porterville-Hanford , Fresno-Madera, Los Angeles-Long Beach, El Centro, Modesto-Merced, and San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, all in California, followed by Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pa.; Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, Pa.; Louisville-Jefferson, Ky. and County-Elizabethtown-Madison, along the Kentucky and Indiana border.

The 10 cities or regions with the worst ozone pollution were (in order): Los Angeles-Long Beach, Bakersfield, Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, and Fresno-Madera, all in California, followed by Phoenix, Sacamento-Roseville, Ca.; Modesto-Merced, Ca.; Denver-Aurora, Co., Las Vegas, and Fort Collins, Co.

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"We can and must do more to save lives and fight climate change," Wimmer said. "The Lung Association calls on every state to adopt strong Clean Power Plans to reduce emissions from power plants that worsen climate change and immediately harm health. The Supreme Court has put a temporary hold on EPA's enforcement of the federal Clean Power Plan, but states should not wait to clean up carbon pollution from their power plants."

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