The American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2013" report released today finds that Jackson County receives a passing grade for year-round particle pollution (soot) and an A grade for short-term particle pollution. Despite these passing grades, Jackson County continued to experience unhealthy days of high ozone (smog.) Overall, "State of the Air 2013" shows that the air quality in Jackson, and nationwide, continues the long-term trend to much healthier air.
"State of the Air 2013" also finds that ozone levels in Jackson County are still a problem, resulting in a C grade. Ozone (smog) is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. When ozone is inhaled, it irritates the lungs, like a bad sunburn. It can cause immediate health problems that continue days later. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death.
"The air in Jackson is certainly cleaner than when we started the ‘State of the Air' report 14 years ago," said Sara Dreiling, Chief Executive Officer of the American Lung Association-Plains-Gulf Region. "Even though Jackson experienced increases in unhealthy days of high ozone and short-term particle pollution, the air quality is still better compared to a decade ago. But the work is not done, and we must set stronger health standards for pollutants and cleanup sources of pollution in Jackson to protect the health of our citizens."
Despite improvements, the "State of the Air 2013" report found that more than 131.8 million people in the U.S. still live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution, which equates to more than 4 in 10 people (42 percent.)
The American Lung Association report reveals that from 2009-2011, many places made strong progress compared to 2008-2010, particularly in lower year-round levels of particle pollution. As a result of emissions reductions from coal-fired power plants and the transition to cleaner diesel fuels and engines, air quality is improving, especially in the eastern United States.
"State of the Air 2013" found that six cities had their worst record for short-term days since the data started to be collected.
The Lung Association led the fight for a new, national air quality standard that strengthened outdated limits on annual levels of particle pollution, announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last December. Thanks to air pollution health standards like this, set under the Clean Air Act and the EPA enforcement of these standards, the U.S. has seen continued reductions in air pollution.
Cleaning up major air pollution sources through steps like the cleaner gasoline and cleaner vehicle standards will drastically cut both ozone and particle pollution. That means more health protections for the nearly 132 million people living in counties with dangerous levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Those at greatest risk from air pollution include infants, children, older adults, anyone with lung diseases like asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works or exercises outdoors.
"The evidence is clear that the Clean Air Act delivers significant health benefits," said Dreiling. "Congress needs to continue to ensure that the provisions under the Clean Air Act are protected and are enforced. EPA and every state must have adequate funding to monitor and protect our citizens from air pollution."
The American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2013" report is an annual, national air quality "report card." The 2013 report—the 14th annual release—uses the most recent quality assured air pollution data, compiled by the EPA, in 2009, 2010, and 2011. These data come from the official monitors for the two most widespread types of pollution, ozone (smog) and particle pollution (PM 2.5, also known as soot). The report grades counties and ranks cities and counties based on their scores for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels.
The American Lung Association in Mississippi urges the public to join the fight for clean air and to learn how to protect themselves and their families from air pollution by visiting www.stateoftheair.org.
About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lungusa.org.
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