Americans and Californians at Risk From Air Pollution

Americans and Californians at Risk From Air Pollution

The American Lung Association Report “State of the Air, 2019” on the Most Polluted US Cities and Counties evaluates three kinds of air pollution, and people at risk in those cities and counties.

We start with the ranking of US Cities with the worst Short Term (24 hour) PM2.5 particle pollution of 2.5 micron particles, or smaller.  These enter into the bloodstream through the lungs.  The two largest cities in the top 25 are in California.  They are at #4, San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland with 9.66 million, and at #7, Los Angeles-Long Beach with 18.79 million, and where I couldn’t take a deep breath for my first 22 years.   The weighted average of days in the three year period 2015-2017 in unhealthy ranges are 13.2 for Los Angeles County.

Next, we examine Annual PM2.5. The leading population centers are again the above two for Short Term pollution, with #5 Los Angeles-Long Beach now edging out #6 San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland.  We have to note that California has actually made great reductions in air pollution since the Clean Air Act of 1963, with additions in 1970 and 1990.  The EPA air quality design value for Los Angeles County is 12.6, and is rated as a Fail.

For Ozone pollution, let’s make this simple, but harsh.  Of the twenty five most ozone polluted counties in the US, all but five are in California,  The exceptions are #12 Maricopa (Phoenix) in Arizona, #16 Harris (Houston) in Texas, #17 Fairfield in Connecticut , #21 Jefferson (Denver) in Colorado, #22 Clark (Las Vegas) in Nevada, and #23 Salt Lake (Salt Lake City) in Utah.

By far, the largest county population for ozone is Los Angeles at #3, with 10.2 million people.  Their three year weighted total of days is 161.2.  Instead of just counting the number of days, the days are weighted by 1 for an orange level of pollution, 1.5 for red, and 2.0 for a purple level.  The next largest counties in California with bad ozone are #8 San Diego with 3.34 million and 45.0 weighted days, and #25 Orange County with 3.19 million, but with a much smaller weighted days score of 17.8.  All of the top 25 have been given a grade of F, however.

We look at Los Angeles-Long Beach with 18.79 million for the count of people at risk from air pollution.  There are 4.32 million under 18.  2.51 million are 65 and older.  0.27 million have Pediatric Asthma.  1.14 million have Adult Asthma.  0.64 million have COPD.  0.89 million have Cardiovascular disease.  1.48 million have Diabetes.  2.58 million are at greater risk in poverty.  7,800 have lung cancer.

There are an amazing 213,000 American and Canadian deaths a year from air pollution, which is about 1/14th of all deaths.  In addition, many others suffer and have conditions complicated by air pollution.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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