More than four in 10 people in the U.S., about 135 million people, live in counties where pollution levels frequently make the air too dangerous to breathe, the American Lung Association says. The group released its 22nd annual “State of the Air” report Wednesday, focused on ozone and short-term and year-round particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution. People of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one of those, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three.
“This report shines a spotlight on the urgent need to curb climate change, clean up air pollution and advance environmental justice,” said ALA head Harold Wimmer.
Climate change exacerbates the air pollution caused by the initial combustion of fossil fuels, as ozone is created when tailpipe and power plant emissions are heated by sunlight. So in addition to supercharging wildfires that created dangerous levels of particulate matter pollution, particularly in California, the heated climate leads to more frequent dangerous ozone levels across the country. (The Guardian, CNN, USA Today, MarketWatch; Arizona: KOLD; California: KFSN; Georgia: GPB; Maine: WGME, Maine Public; Montana: Montana Public Radio; Nevada: KLAS; New Mexico: New Mexico Political Report; New York: WGRZ, Spectrum News 1, WSHU; Pennsylvania: KDKA, WLVR, Fox43; Utah: Fox13; Washington: KGMI, Tri-City Herald; West Virginia: WV MetroNews, WOWK; Wisconsin: WHBL)