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Published: Wed, April 20, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Clean air advocates: California has nation's dirtiest air

Clean air advocates: California has nation's dirtiest air

"The grades are the same, but the air quality has improved from last year's report", said Kevin Stewart, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. As evidence, the lung association proclaimed that there was some air improvement. "Breathing it in is like a sunburn of the lungs".

The report gives Bakersfield and Los Angeles the worst grades in the nation for air pollution. Congress needs to adequately fund the work of the EPA and the states to monitor air quality and protect the nation from air pollution. Los Angeles remains the nation's leader in harmful ozone pollution from vehicle tailpipes emitting smog, the report says. "Climate change also leads to particle pollution from increased droughts and wildfires. It exacerbated it to the point of increasing death from lung disease".

Hamilton County had the highest weighted average in the metro area for ozone levels.

In the San Joaquin Valley, pollution lingers. "We've made some progress in the United States by beginning to move away from coal, but we need to go much further here and around the world by transitioning quickly from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy". This is important because not all particle pollutants are the same toxicity, Thurston said. The country's air toxicity surpasses pollution limits established by the World Health Organization and the European Union.

Like Los Angeles, numerous poorest performing cities are located in California.

Hope is not totally lost.

Climate change, and the drier, warmer conditions it has helped bring to many parts of California, have at least partially negated California's "groundbreaking clean air and clean energy laws, and local air pollution control programs", the report says.

The 17th annual national report card, which covers air pollution data collected in 2012-2014, found continued improvement nationwide for year-round particle pollution and ozone; still, many areas suffered more spikes in daily averages of particle pollution. "That means the Clean Air Act is working". The Lung Association's report used the new measure.

"Marin has a particle pollution problem that comes from burning wood", Bard said.

"Think of something like driving. But if you drove at 55 miles per hour, you might be safer and get better gas mileage", he said. That designation includes Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon and Ottawa counties. The four cleanest cities in all three categories are Burlington, Vt.; Elmira, N.Y.; Honolulu; and Salinas, Calif.

The 2016 report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely risky and even lethal.

"That's the disadvantage of having a topography that traps air pollution and lets it cook in the sun", Steward said.

"You don't have a choice in the air you breath".

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