As summer continues to roll out, just about everyone will be looking to spend some quality time outdoors, absorbing the sun’s warming rays, and breathing fresh air. Such satisfactory staples of nature will be highly appreciated by Midwesterners in particular, who experienced a more arduous and lengthy winter than many recent years. Nature enthusiasts and porch-sitters alike will have to step outside with a note of caution, however recent studies indicate that nearly half of U.S. skies are still being choked up by air pollution.
While U.S. air quality in general is better than it was in 2004, research reports that the details of sky cleanliness have recently taken a dip. According to the American Lung Association (ALA), a non-profit organization that has been studying the respiratory health of Americans since 1904, noted earlier this week that about 47 percent of U.S. inhabitants are living under skies that frequently have high levels of particulate or ozone pollution. That number is a five percent jump from last year.
California has the most to be concerned about, with five areas topping the charts for worst pollution. The Fresno-Madera and Los Angeles-Long Beach locales were revealed as having very persistent pollution. This does not mean that California as a whole has been lazy on improving their situation, however. Over the past decade and a half, Los Angeles has actually reduced its levels of ozone by about 30 percent, and other cities in the state are likely to take notice if Los Angeles continues this trend. Even though particulate and ozone pollution is still choking the air throughout nearly half of U.S. skies, the list of cities that do not experience heavy air pollution year round is encouraging to read.
The Cape Coral-Fort Myers area in Florida, Bangor in Maine, Bismarck in North Dakota and even Salinas, California are cities whose inhabitants have not suffered oppressive levels of soot and smog. The residential atmosphere of Salinas primarily holds suburban housing, and has been indicated as an ideal climate for vineyards and floral businesses, which likely works in tandem with keeping air pollution levels low. The cities where most of the nation’s industrial efforts still take place are usually the areas that end up seeing the worst of pollution.
Fort Collins, Colorado landed on the charts in very interesting territory this year. The city ended up being listed as one of the 25 worst areas in terms of ozone pollution, but was among the best cities in regards to lowest particulate pollution.
Overall, during the past three years, the ALA studies have seen ozone pollution increase, but particulate pollution decrease. Dr. Norman Edelman, professor at Stony Brook University in New York, was involved with this year’s study. Edelman mentioned that when cities see their ozone pollution levels go up, it is tied to automobile exhaust. More car exhaust means more people are driving cars, and cities that are experiencing a growing population have to work harder to offset their pollution.
Even as more people move into urban areas of certain states, many inhabitants are opting to use bikes or public transportation to minimize their contributions to pollution at large. Larger cities such as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles have all improved their air quality, and they landed numbers in this year’s report as their lowest numbers yet. Despite the unfavorable levels at which air pollution is still choking up U.S. skies, hopefully the trendsetters of air quality will press forward.
By Brad Johnson