ALA: Overall Air Quality Improved But Pollution Hotspots Persist

The greater Los Angeles area has the worst ozone problem in the nation but the number of unhealthful days is on a declining trend with 2015 the best year so far

There was an average of 20 days per year between 2013 and 2015 when the air was considered unhealthy because of particle pollution, the recent data showed.

California's soaring population, weather and topography are all factors that contribute to its air pollution, in a state where many people commute and live in valleys and basins where pollution tends to settle.

The Buffalo metro area was among 99 cities nationwide cited as "cleanest" for short-term soot pollution. On the other end of the spectrum was Kalamazoo and Kent counties, with an average of one and two high ozone days respectively.

For those Counties receiving an "F" for fine particle pollution, the majority of poor air quality days can be directly attributed to smoke from wildfires. Particle pollution is highest in winter when households are burning wood and diesel exhaust collects in still air, she said. Exposure can be particularly risky for "at-risk groups" like the young and elderly as well as those whose health is already complicated by respiratory, cardiac or other ailments.

Both counties retained their previous grades of "A" when it comes to particle pollution.

"There is a definite correlation between pollution and respiratory illnesses, as the air quality worsens so is the incidence of respiratory illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis, including allergic skin conditions as well", said Dr. Eduardo Villarama, regional medical director for Golden Valley Health Centers, in an email to the Merced Sun-Star.

There was good news in the report.

• Salinas recognized as one of the cleanest cities.

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"Some disturbing spikes in daily particle pollution levels especially in areas that might be more affected by climate change", said Stewart.

All major cities in the state had fewer unhealthy ozone days, and every city hit its lowest level for ozone.

Salinas, meanwhile, was recognized as one of the nation's cleanest cities, thanks to zero unhealthy ozone days and one of the lowest year-round particle pollution levels.

The group said its report highlights the significant improvements made by the country to curb air pollution, and speaks to the importance of strengthening those efforts. The state's 2002 Clean Smokestacks Act, which limited pollution from coal-fired power plants, sharply reduced ozone. And the report assumes everyone in a county is exposed to the highest level of ozone recorded, even if most residents don't travel to the site where the worst concentrations were found, he said.

Although New Castle County received an F for ozone smog air pollution, Stewart said the county has improved. President Donald Trump has proposed cuts to federal climate science funding and has deregulated industries that are a major source of risky emissions.

The association has analyzed data from official air quality monitors for the past 18 years.

Air quality in US cities improved overall a year ago, a new report from the American Lung Association (ALA) concluded.

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