137M Americans Live in Areas of High Air Pollution

Environmental News from America: More than 40% of Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to the American Lung Association‘s (ALA) annual “State of the Air” report—and experts say significant policy changes are needed to curtail the problem.

Report details and key findings

ALA analyzed data on ozone and particle pollution from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System for the report. The report covered data between 2018 and 2020.

Overall, ALA found that more than 40% of the U.S. population—or 137 million people—live in areas with unhealthy ozone levels or particle pollution. Compared with last year’s report, 2.1 million people now live in counties with unhealthy air and are experiencing more days of “very unhealthy” or “hazardous air quality.”

In addition, over 63 million Americans are now impacted by daily spikes in deadly particle pollution—an increase of almost 9 million people from last year’s report. According to ABC News, particulate pollution, also known as “soot,” comes from wildfires, coal-fired power plants, and diesel engines, and can trigger asthma attacks, strokes, heart attacks, and potentially cause lung cancer.

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