Air Quality Facts

  • The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2012 report shows continued strong progress in improved air quality, but unhealthy levels of air pollution still exist across the nation.
  • State of the Air 2012 shows that air quality improved during 2008-2010 across the nation. However, air quality in some areas actually worsened compared to the 2011 report, highlighting the need for continued vigilance.
  • Air pollution hovers at unhealthy levels in almost every major city, threatening people’s ability to breathe and placing lives at risk.
  • Eighteen of the 25 cities most polluted by ozone, including Los Angeles, had their lowest smog levels since the first State of the Air report was published in 2000.
  • Seventeen of the 25 cities with the worst annual particle pollution saw their lowest-ever levels, including Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
  • 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.
  • Over 127million people live in counties that received an F for either ozone or particle pollution.
  • Over 5.7 million people live in counties that got an F for all three pollutants: ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution.
  • This year’s State of the Air report tells us that nearly four in 10 people (38.5%) in the United States live in counties that received an F for air quality because of unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution.
  • Nearly six million people in the United States live in an area with unhealthy year-round levels of 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.
  • Roughly one in six (16.2%—nearly 50 million) Americans live in counties with too many unhealthy spikes in particle pollution levels.
  • Air pollution remains a real and urgent threat to public health in the US, despite real progress since 1970.
  • Today’s air quality standards do not reflect what science proved long ago to be levels that actually protect public health and ensure that Americans have clean air to breathe.
  • The American Lung Association fought to strengthen the Clean Air Act in 1990. Today, we are fighting to protect it from being weakened.
  • People who work or exercise outside face increased risk from the effects of air pollution.
  • Only one city—Santa Fe-Espanola, NM—appeared on all three lists of categories covered in State of the Air for the cleanest 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.
  • Big polluters and some members of Congress are trying to change the Clean Air Act and dismantle 40 years’ of progress. The Lung Association is fighting to keep the law strong to continue to protect public health.
  • Cutting air pollution through the Clean Air Act will prevent at least 230,000 deaths and save $2 trillion annually by 2020.