The State of the Air report has been put together by the American Lung Association for the past 13 years. The 2012 report looked at the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 at various monitored sites across the United States.
The 2012 report recorded that 41 percent of the population still live in areas with pollution levels too dangerous to breathe. This is a staggering number, but it is an improvement from the previous year’s report. Since 1990 our air has gotten cleaner even with an increase in population, economy, energy use and miles driven.
The report records three separate measures. The measures taken are of the ozone pollution, the averaged year round particle pollution and the short-term levels of particle pollution. As of 2010 the ozone was recorded as 13 percent lower, the year round particle pollution was 24 percent lower and the short-term particle pollution decreased by 28 percent.
With all of these significant decreases it is a wonder why levels are still considered so dangerous. As a society we are still attempting to correct our mistakes that brought us to these circumstances. While things are improving, they are doing so at a glacial pace. It may take no time at all to wreak havoc on our air, but correcting those damages can take significant more time.
Out of the 25 cities recorded last year with the most ozone pollution, 22 of them improved their air quality. Over 50 percent of theUnited States’ most smog polluted cities had their best year yet, but the levels still remain dangerous. For the first time in the reports 13 year history though,DetroitandNew York Cityare not ranked among the most polluted cities. While our metropolises take action, our smaller cities have seemed to falter.
The report calculated that over 5.7 million people live in counties where the outdoor air failed all three tests. The American Lung Association believes that the number is probably due to the fact that Congress has not adjusted levels of safety in many years.
A total of 38.5 percent of our population currently lives in areas with unhealthful levels of ozone pollution. This places individuals at risk for decreased lung function, respiratory infection, lung inflammation and aggravation of former respiratory illnesses. That leaves a large part of our population at extreme health risks.
The report also recorded that 16.1 percent of the population lives in areas with unhealthful short-term levels of particle pollution. These levels can last anywhere from several hours to days. These levels have the potential to increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits for asthma and cardiovascular disease. It can also increase the risk of early death.
Chronic levels of particle pollution often lead to regular threats to individual health. Today, 6.4 million people live in counties that experience these high levels.
Below are the top five rankings in the three categories studied along with the cleanest cities and counties for year-round particle pollution:
People at Risk in 25 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-term Particle Pollution
- Bakersfield–Delano, CA
- Fresno-Modera, CA
- Hanford-Corcoran, CA
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
- Modesto, CA
People at Risk in 25 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-round Particle Pollution
1. Barkersfield-Delano, CA
2. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
3. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
4. Visalla-Porterville, CA
5. Fresno-Modera, CA
10. St. Louis and St Charles, MO
People at Risk in 25 Most Ozone Polluted Cities
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
- Visalla-Porterville, CA
- Bakersfield-Delano, CA
- Fresno-Modera, CA
- Hanford-Corcoran, CA
Top 25 Cleanest U.S. Cities for Year-Round Particle Pollution
- Santa Fe-Espanola, NM
- Cheyenne, WY
- Prescott, AZ
- Tucson, AZ
- Albuquerque, NM
Top 25 Cleanest Counties for Year-Round Particle Pollution
1. Santa Fe, NM
2. Elbert, CO
2. Laramie, WY
4. Hancock, ME
4. Essex, NY
4. Jackson, SD
With the beginning of May comes not only the first hint of summer, but also the St. Louis Regional Clean Air Partnership’s (SLRCAP) air quality index (AQI). But, what does this actually mean for motorists?
The AQI converts measured pollutant concentration in a community’s air to a number on a scale of 0 to 500. In St. Louis those numbers are converted into colored days. Green signifies a good day for air quality. Usually cool summer temperatures and either wind or clouds are associated with this day. As the summer gets hotter and the days get longer the air quality decreases. A yellow day means moderate air quality. Temperatures range from the mid 70s and up and are accompanied by light winds and sunny skies. Days that land in the orange and red are much more apparent to the naked eye. These days are usually extremely hot and hazy. As a motorist if you see heat waves reflecting off of the pavement you know that the AQI is likely to be high.
In the month of May last year the AQI only reached yellow five times. This year the index marked at yellow by the fourth of the month.
Air Quality Facts
The ozone is created when heat and sunlight react with hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides emitted from automobiles, body shops, gas stations, organic solvents and various other sources. When these elements are mixed together they form the ground level layer of ozone known as smog. One thing to note is that good and bad ozone are chemically identical but it is their location in the atmosphere that creates the difference.
Transportation and Ozone Facts
In 2009, 81 percent of Missouri residents drove to work alone on a daily basis
The average travel time to work in Missouri was 23.2 minutes in 2009
In 2010, over 1.3 million St. Louis residents drove to and from work during peak travel time
St. Louis residents make 7.2 million vehicle trips per day with 5.3 million of those being single person trips
In 2008, St. Louis residents drove over 71 miles per day
In 2010, St. Louis motorists spent an individual average of 30 hours in traffic, costing peak commuters $642 annually and wasting 14 gallons of fuel
One person utilizing van/carpool services can save 225 pounds of harmful emissions per year - this equates to about $3,500 per year
One highway lane can accommodate 2,250 people per hour in cars and 9,000 peope per hour in buses
Two metro tracks have the same capacity as 16 lanes of highway
A full MetroBus can remove 40 cars and a full MetroLink can remove 125 cars from the highways
Tips to Keep our AQI Green
Keep your tires properly inflated. When all four tires are under-inflated by 10 percent, gas mileage will decrease by 10 percent
Refuel your cars and trusk after dusk.
Choose pump sprays over aerosol. Use cooking oil over cooking spray; shaving soap over shaving cream; and, setting lotion or gel over hairspray.
- Store gasoline in dark, cool places. This preserves the gasoline so that you may use it after a prolonged period of time and keeps the fumes from evaporating into the air.
- Don’t overfill your gas tank. If you do overfill you prevent your emissions system from operating correctly.
Mow your lawn after 7 p.m.
When barbequing use a charcoal chimney or electric starter instead of charcoal lighter fluid.
- Idling for 30+ seconds can consume 1/2 to one gallon of gas per year. This causes engine components to wear prematurely which may mean more money in the long term.
- Reduce the use of your air conditioning at low speed. When driving over 40 mph your air conditioning costs less fuel then having the windows open.
- Avoid roof racks and remove them when not in use.
- Replace the air and fuel filters regularly. Air filters can be purchased at a local auto parts store and chaged easily.
As a part of the St. Louis Regional Clean Air Partnership the hope is that we may bring more understanding to you about the quality of our air and new trends in the environmental movement. Posts will vary on a weekly basis but if you have any input we would love to hear your ideas and pursue research in fields that may interest you.
Enjoy reading and be sure to shut down your computer once you’re done using it to conserve our earth’s energy.