According to the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report, Los Angeles-Long Beach, California has once again been deemed the most ozone-polluted region in the United States. More than one-third of U.S. residents are exposed to hazardous levels of air pollution, with Californian cities ranking among the most polluted metropolitan areas, according to a report released on Wednesday.
The report assessed ozone smog and particle pollution levels by analyzing data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System between 2019 and 2021. This time period coincided with a spate of wildfires in the state, which contributed to the elevated pollution levels.
In 23 of the 24 years that the Lung Association has produced its State of the Air report, the Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area has ranked as the most ozone-polluted region in the country. Despite some improvement in unhealthy ozone days and particle pollution days compared to the previous year, the region had the highest ozone pollution in the nation.
Bakersfield, California has the highest levels of short-term and long-term particulate pollution in the United States. Other California cities included Visalia, Fresno, Sacramento, and San Diego on the list. Over ninety-eight percent of Californians reside in areas that received failing ratings for unhealthy ozone pollution days, unhealthy particle pollution days, or annual particle pollution levels, according to a recent report. Over forty percent of the population resides in areas with failing ratings for all three pollutants.
The report found that, on a national scale, nearly 120 million people reside in areas with poor air quality, with more than half of them being people of color. The report’s authors discovered that people of color were 64% more likely than whites to live in a county with a failing grade in at least one of the study’s pollution categories and 3.7 times more likely to live in a county with failing grades in all three categories.
The report’s findings are alarming, particularly considering that air pollution can lead to a variety of health problems, such as asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease. In addition, individuals with preexisting health conditions are more likely to develop complications when exposed to high levels of pollution.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) also expressed concern regarding the findings of the report. The organization highlighted the state’s efforts to combat air pollution, including the implementation of stricter vehicle emission standards and the promotion of renewable energy. CARB also noted that California is a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and has set a target date of 2045 to achieve carbon neutrality.
Despite these efforts, the State of the Air report demonstrates that much work remains to be done to enhance air quality in California and across the nation. The report emphasizes the need for sustained efforts to combat air pollution and mitigate its negative effects on public health.
It is imperative that policymakers address this issue and safeguard public health. Everyone has a role to perform in reducing pollution levels and fostering a cleaner, healthier environment in order to improve air quality.