Air Quality Facts

  • Twenty-five of the top 27 most-polluted cities for year-round particle pollution levels had cleaner air than last year’s report found.
  • Air pollution hovers at unhealthy levels in almost every major city, threatening people’s ability to breathe and placing lives at risk.
  • The most widespread kinds of air pollution are ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot). Breathing either can harm your body and risk your life.
  • When inhaled, ozone irritates the lungs, resulting in something like a bad sunburn within the lungs.
  • The American Lung Association leads the fight for healthy air every day. We fight for tighter clean air standards, reduced power plant emissions and cleaner diesel fuels and vehicles.
  • Breathing in particle pollution can increase the risk of early death, heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits for people with asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • About one in 17 people in the United States lives in an area with unhealthy year-round levels of fine particle pollution.
  • Do you live near, or work on or near a busy highway? Pollution from the traffic may put you at greater risk of harm.
  • Air pollution remains a real and urgent threat to public health in the US, despite real progress since 1970.
  • Even with the growing “green movement,” air pollution in some parts of our country actually got worse since last year’s report.
  • The American Lung Association fought to strengthen the Clean Air Act in 1990.
  • People who work or exercise outside face increased risk from the effects of air pollution.
  • More than half of all Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution.
  • 18.5 million Americans live in counties where the outdoor air failed all three tests covered in the State of the Air report.
  • Two cities—Honolulu, HI and Santa Fe, NM—ranked among the cleanest in all three air pollution categories covered in State of the Air.
  • Certain groups are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as: infants, older adults and people with lung diseases like asthma.
  • Steps to clean up pollution may have added 5 months to the average lifespan, according to one study.
  • Minorities and lower income groups are often disproportionately affected by air pollution which put them at higher risk for illnesses.
  • Air pollution is a serious health threat. It sends people to the hospital, shapes how kids’ lungs develop, and can even be deadly.
  • Some of the biggest sources of air pollution are dirty power plants, old diesel vehicles and heavy equipment, and ocean-going vessels.
  • Steps you can take to improve air quality will also help fight climate change. Drive less. Don’t burn wood or trash. Use less electricity. Make sure your school system requires clean buses.
  • You can protect your family by checking the air quality forecasts in your community and avoiding exercising or working outdoors when the unhealthy air is expected.

SOTA 2011 Survey