Americans in millions are now residing in places that contain unhealthy levels of smog or particulate air pollution, and those have become worse due to climate change, a new report disclosed.
According to the American Lung Association report, 43% of Americans are now breathing unsafe air in the places they are living. Since the 1970s there was a considerable improvement in the Air quality in the US. However, that progress is probably backsliding now.
In the US, ozone and particle pollution, the two most prominent types of air pollution mainly dominate. They are also the ones that are threatening the lives and the health of millions of Americans currently.
Wildfires are getting worse with the gradually rising temperatures and gushing smoke across the west while on warmer days smog, or ozone, is dominant and seems to take place more often.
During three recorded hottest years, i.e., 2015, 2016 and 2017, about 141 million people lived in places in the US that witnessed unhealthy levels of particle pollution or smog, either in a day or over a year adding another 7 million people more compared to the last report of the group.
“We’re seeing in this year’s report the impacts of climate change on air quality in really stunning terms,” said Paul Billings, the vice-president for the association.
As per Billings, there was a sharp increase in particle pollution for days crossing the group’s data in 2001 and thereby setting records in eight communities.
It may be due to the Western wildfires, and the report of 2018 is likely to get even worse, he added.
The air quality in Bakersfield and the Fresno area was worst in California as per all three measurements. While Los Angeles continued to hold the worst position for smog, Alaska, Fairbanks, ranked third for particle pollution. The reason behind it could be the burning of wood by so many people to heat their homes.
This report is the annual assessment of government data by the health advocacy group.
The health issues like heart and lung complications and early deaths are caused by smog and particle pollution. When sunlight reacts with gases coming out from cars and power plants, smog occurs. Particle pollution, on the other hand, occurs from wildfires, burning fossil fuels and also wood in fireplaces or stoves.
As the federal government’s National Climate Assessment explains, in warmer days smog levels increases and both smog and particle pollution may increase in stagnant weather. Moreover, worse droughts can cause more wind-blown dust.
For decades air pollution in the US has shown downtrend due to stringent pollution laws such as the 1970 Clean Air Act and using more natural gas and lesser dependence on coal.
The deaths from air pollution in the US also got reduced by almost half between 1990 and 2010 as per one 2018 study. However, the number still accounted for one in 35 deaths, and it is more than combined deaths from traffic accidents and shootings.
According to the University of Chicago, 75% of the population as compared to the 5.5 billion and more people worldwide reside in locations that even fail to meet the standard of the World Health Organization for limiting particle pollution.
Moreover, the Obama-era environmental progress that includes strict regulations on air and climate pollution and rules for power plants and cars are what the Trump administration has sought to roll back.
Miles Keogh, the executive director for the National Association of State Air Agencies, said weakening air standards would mean “walking away from a winning strategy.”
“We’ve got the tools here,” Keogh said. “We’ve got to use them to shore it up, adapt them to a changing climate and not walk away from things that work.”