UNITED STATES.- The American Lung Society (ALA) just released an annual report ranking the cities with the worst and best air quality in the country. The "State of the Air 2014" study measured three factors in order to calculate air quality in the primary metropolitan cities in the U.S.: ozone levels (smog), yearly air contaminant particles, and daily air contaminant particles.
There is good and bad news. The bad news is that the ozone, which is smog that we see in the city landscape, has increased in the past years primarily because of the hot summer seasons of 2011 and 2012. Due to climate change, the ALA reports that it is anticipated that the smog problem will continue to get worse in many cities, because solar heat and light contribute to smog.
In California, Los Angeles ranks as the worst city for air quality, followed by the metropolitan areas of Visalia-Porterfield-Hanford; Bakersfield; Fresno-Madera; Houston; Modesto-Merced.Other cities ranked high on the list are Washington; Baltimore, Las Vegas, Phoenix, New York City, Saint Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
Cincinatti, Philadelphia, Loisville, Kentucky, Chicago, Pittsburg, Fort Cllins, Colorado, Birmingham, Alabama; Clevelend, Ohio; and Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
San Diego is not listed in the top 20, but it is ranked as one of the cities that has an elevated level of contaminant particles annually, and daily, placing 23rd and 20th on both this list respectively.
There is still a lot of work left to do, as air quality got worse between 2010 and 2012, mostly due to the increased ozone levels, and almost 5 of every 10 people live in a place where the air quality failed the accepted levels under established health standards.
Even so, smog levels are better than they were a decade ago, according to the report. This proves that, although temperature levels are expected to increase long term, smog creation can be combated by more aggressive efforts against pollutants and CO2 emissions.
The cleanest cities were also some of the least populous, unsurprisingly enough. Anchorage, Alaska; Prescott, Arizona; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Farmington, New York; and Casper, Wyoming were ranked on this list.
The good news is that this shows us that there has been an improvement in contamination levels since the passing of The Clear Act, in 1970. This law, created along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been the primary agency responsible for controlling and decreasing contamination in the air, water, and soil.
Higher car-milage standards, lower carbon emissions from mines, and even the decreased consumption of cigarettes have led to lower particle pollution, in spite of economic growth during that same time period.
Just last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the EPA in a lawsuit related to the powers this agency has to control pollutants and emissions from one state but cross over into another because of air currents.
The report also proposes various measures and public policy proposals that should be implemented in order to improve air quality. It emphasizes that we should continue to promote green energy and alternative energy, because non-renewable energy still accounts for over 83 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the country. Additionally, it advises people to limit the use of wood for burning, and to improve air monitoring efforts. It also includes suggestions as to how we all can breath better.