The topic of air pollution is being widely discussed for quite some time now. To start with, controlling the concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is extremely important for climate change mitigation, there is no question about it. Of course, this is not the only reason the topic has flooded the news. Air pollution also has a direct impact on human health, and here we do not only refer to carbon emissions from fossil fuels, we also include ozone and particle pollution.
Some might think that this concerns only people living in places such as China and India, but in fact nearly 50% of the American citizens, or around 150 million, quietly breathe toxic air across the States. The American Lung Association just published a report, which provides detailed assessment on the most polluted cities in the U.S. ranked according to three factors- ozone, particle pollution on yearly basis and short-term particle pollution.
The data for the report are compiled over a period between 2010 and 2012 by federal, state and local governments and tribes, and consequently compared to previously gathered information. Of course, as it is with every data set, it is possible that people interpret it in a way that is most convenient to them. But if we keep justifications and explanations aside, what the numbers actually indicate is a general improvement in air quality for the whole of the U.S, but also a significant increase in pollutants for the most affected cities.
It might not be such a big surprise that the leaders in this chart are located in the state of California. These are closely followed by cities in Texas, although these did not make it into the top five. Here is a list of who did:
1. Los Angeles- Long Beach, CA (#1 by Ozone, #3 by Year Round Particle Pollution, #4 by Short-term Particle Pollution)
2. Fresno- Madera, CA (#4 by Ozone, #1 by Year Round Particle Pollution, #1 by Short-term Particle Pollution)
3. Visalia- Porterville- Hanford, CA (#2 by Ozone, #2 by Year Round Particle Pollution, #2 by Short-term Particle Pollution)
4. Bakersfield, CA (#3 by Ozone, #3 by Year Round Particle Pollution, #3 by Short-term Particle Pollution)
5. Modesto-Merced, CA (#7 by Ozone, #5 by Year Round Particle Pollution, #5 by Short-term Particle Pollution)
The reasons for this are many. The most obvious ones are of course carbon emissions from fossil fuels and vehicles, but population growth and therefore use of wood-burning fires, is not to be neglected. The usual suspect, climate change, is of course there too. The drastic increase in temperatures and the heat waves in 2012, were the main contributors to ozone pollution.
All in all, nothing to be proud of, despite the fact that the nation as a whole has reduced air pollution levels. If you are interested, here is a link to the full report and the complete chart.
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