The American Lung Association (ALA) released the latest version of its annual "State of the Air" report detailing how the majority of Americans—some 186 million, up from just 125 million a year before—are now subject to unhealthy air pollution levels. The group assesses air pollution data from U.S. cities and counties to compile the annual report, released last week. For this latest version, ALA assessed (and ranked) air pollution levels across the country between 2005 and 2007, finding unhealthy amounts of smog, soot and other respiratory irritants at certain times of the year in almost every major urban area.
"This should be a wakeup call," said ALA Board Chair Stephen Nolan. "When 60% of Americans are left breathing air dirty enough to send people to the emergency room, to shape how kids" lungs develop, and to kill, air pollution remains a serious problem."
Some of the bright spots in the study—where air pollution levels were consistently lowest—included Fargo, ND, Billings, MT and Vero Beach, FL. Meanwhile, Los Angeles, New York and Houston were ranked near the bottom of the spectrum. The group said people can protect themselves and family members from the ill effects of air pollution by checking their community's air quality forecasts and avoiding exercising or working outdoors on so-called bad air days.