January 18, 2022

Reports in the News: American Lung Association Releases 22nd Annual “State of the Air” Report

From the American Lung Association:

A new report from the American Lung Association finds more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) in the U.S. live with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. The 22nd annual “State of the Air” report shows that people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. While the report finds some improvements in the nation’s air quality, it is clear that in many parts of the country climate change is making our air quality worse.


The 2021 “State of the Air” report analyzes data from 2017, 2018 and 2019, the three years with the most recent quality-assured data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Notably, those three years were among the six hottest in recorded global history.


Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-term Particle Pollution (24-hour PM2.5):
1.   Fairbanks, Alaska
2.   Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
3.   Bakersfield, California
4.   San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
5.   Yakima, Washington
6.   Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
7.   Logan, Utah-Idaho
8.   Redding-Red Bluff, California
9.   Missoula, Montana
10. Sacramento-Roseville, California

Year-Round Particle Pollution
More than 20.9 million people lived in counties with unhealthy levels of year-round particle pollution. Of the 25 cities most polluted year-round by particle pollution in the U.S., 13 suffered worse year-round levels during 2017- 2019 than in the 2020 report that covered 2016-2018.

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5):
1.   Bakersfield, California
2.   Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
3.   Visalia, California
4.   Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
5.   Medford-Grants Pass, Oregon
6.   Fairbanks, Alaska
7.   San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
8.   Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
9.   Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-Ohio-WV
10. El Centro, California

Ozone Pollution
Ground-level ozone pollution, often called smog, is a powerful respiratory irritant whose effects have been likened to a sunburn of the lung. Inhaling ozone can cause shortness of breath and trigger coughing and asthma attacks, and may shorten life. New research also links ozone exposure to an increased risk of metabolic disorders, including diabetes. Warmer temperatures driven by climate change make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up.

More than 123.2 million people lived in a county earning a failing grade for ozone pollution, including many vulnerable people who are at an increased risk of harm from ozone, such as 28.1 million children and 18.2 million people age 65 or older.

Top 10 Cities Most Polluted by Ozone:
1.   Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
2.   Bakersfield, California
3.   Visalia, California
4.   Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
5.   Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
6.   Sacramento-Roseville, California
7.   San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, California
8.   Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT
8.    Denver-Aurora, Colorado
10. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California

Cleanest Cities
The report also recognizes the nation’s cleanest cities. To make the list, a city must experience no high ozone or particle pollution days and rank among the 25 cities with the lowest year-round particle pollution levels.

Cleanest U.S. Cities (listed in alphabetical order)

  • Burlington-South Burlington-Barre, Vermont
  •  Charlottesville, Virginia
  •  Elmira-Corning, New York
  •  Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Wilmington, North Carolina

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.