Half of Americans live with unhealthy air

147.6 million Americans (47%) live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to an American Lung Association (ALA) report released in April 2014.

The two air pollutants cited in the report were ozone and particle pollution. Particle pollution is believed to be more harmful than ozone because its microscopic particles can pass through the body’s defense systems, and even get into the bloodstream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report found the impact of climate change is threatening to undo advances in cutting down harmful emissions. The report warns that much needs to be done to improve air quality.  Most scientists agree that a 2-degree Celsius global temperature rise above preindustrial temperatures would be safe for humanity. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said keeping the temperature rise to 2 degrees would require lowering greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 70 percent compared with 2010 numbers by midcentury. At current emissions levels, the world will be almost 5 degrees hotter by the end of the century

“We are happy to report continued reduction of year-round particle pollution across the nation, thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association.  “However, this improvement represents only a partial victory. We know that warmer temperatures increase risk for ozone pollution, so climate change sets the stage for tougher challenges to protect human health. We must meet these challenges head on to protect the health of millions of Americans living with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All of us –everyone in every family—have the right to healthy air.”