Report: 70% of Californians Live in Areas With Unhealthy Air Pollution
The 16th annual "State of the Air" report ranked cities across the country based on their levels of ground-level ozone and particle pollution between 2011 and 2013.
Overall, the report found that much of the U.S., particularly communities in the East, has cleaner air than a decade ago.
However, the study said that poor air quality continues to be a "pervasive public health threat," with about 44% of U.S. residents living in areas where air pollution can be harmful to their health (Pawlowski, NBC News, 4/29).
In California, more than 28 million residents -- or about 70% of the state population -- live in counties with unhealthy air, according to the report. Some of the worst air quality in the country was recorded in Southern California (Steinberg, San Bernardino Sun, 4/29).
California cities among the top 10 most ozone-polluted communities in the U.S. included:
- Los Angeles-Long Beach, which had the most ozone pollution nationally;
- Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, which ranked second;
- Bakersfield, which ranked third;
- Fresno-Madera, which ranked fourth; and
- Modesto-Merced, which ranked eighth.
Cities with the most year-round particle pollution were:
- Fresno-Madera, which ranked first overall;
- Bakersfield, which ranked second;
- Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, which ranked third;
- Modesto-Merced, which ranked fourth;
- Los Angeles-Long Beach, which ranked fifth;
- El Centro, which ranked sixth; and
- San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, which ranked seventh.
Meanwhile, Salinas -- which reported zero days with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution -- was among the cleanest cities in the U.S. for air quality (NBC News, 4/29).
Reasons for Air Quality Issues in Calif.
According to the report, California's ongoing drought has exacerbated air quality problems, especially particle pollution.
Bonnie Holmes-Gen, senior director of air quality and climate change at ALA, said, "California's ongoing drought conditions added to the burdens faced due to unhealthy air, and especially in terms of particle pollution in the most recent report period."
In addition to drought, she noted that the state's "clean air progress" also could be threatened by:
- Prolonged heat events; and
- Wildfires (San Bernardino Sun, 4/29).