ALA Report Finds Good, Bad News on Air Pollution

Lung association says particle and ozone pollution down in many cities, but threats remain
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- Despite reductions in particle and ozone pollution in recent years, unhealthy air remains a threat to about 58 percent of Americans, according to the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2010 report.

The report uses data on ozone and particle pollution collected in 2006 through 2008. Twenty cities that are most affected by year-round levels of particle pollution improved their annual average levels compared to the 2009 report, including regions encompassing Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit and Indianapolis. Fourteen of the 25 most ozone-polluted metropolitan areas had fewer average unhealthy days compared to the previous report.

However, nearly 70.4 million people in the United States live in areas affected by unhealthy short-term levels of particle pollution, and 23.8 million live in areas with unhealthy year-round levels. More than 167 million people are still exposed to unhealthy levels of ozone.

"Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing. It also causes irregular heartbeat, heart attacks and even premature death in people with heart or lung disease," said Norman H. Edelman, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, in a prepared statement. "When you inhale ozone, it irritates your lungs, leaving them with something like a bad sunburn. It causes health problems the day you breathe it in, and even days after."

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