Quite frankly, it’s scary how much junk we’re breathing in every day.
While a main part of the report is to provide a rank-ordered list of America’s cleanest and dirtiest cities, it also covers new findings and research regarding the health and social justice impacts of our air. Here are a few things that made note. Some I found alarming, some surprising and some just made me plain angry.
- New research shows that for vulnerable individuals, spikes in particle pollution can cause death the same day OR one to two months after exposure. (Particle pollution is a mix of very tiny solid and liquid particles in the air we breathe. The particles range in size and you can’t see the individual particles; you can only see the haze that forms when millions of particles blur the spread of sunlight.)
- Added to the populations at risk for ill effects of particle pollution: low-income individuals and healthy adults who exercise outdoors.
- Particle pollution is especially dangerous to children as they have a faster breathing rate and inhale more deeply.
- Diabetics are at a greater risk from suffering ill effects from particle pollution; new research shows that particle pollution impairs insulin’s ability to properly work.
- The negative health impacts of pollution from traffic and transportation sources are greater than previously thought. Research shows that teens in otherwise “clean” counties who live near a freeway or heavy traffic have decreased lung function.
- Brown, Dane and Milwaukee counties all earned a big, fat F for 24-hour particle pollution.
There was a bit of an upside (depending on your perspective): Thanks to the Clean Air Act, reductions in particle pollution between 1980 and 2000 has increased our life expectancy by five months.
Want to know the state of your air? The American Lung Association has an online database; just plug in your ZIP code to find out how ALA ranked your area in regards to ozone pollution and particle pollution (note that not all areas have air monitors, so some areas may not return any results).
Once armed with information on your local air quality, keep your ear to the ground. The EPA and Clean Air Act just barely survived an attack earlier this month that would have severely weakened air protections. The Clean Air Act is critical to our health and welfare. By 2020, the Clean Air Act will have saved Americans $2 billion and saved 230,000 lives, and has added $2 trillion to the economy.
-contributed by Amanda Wegner, media specialist