As We Begin to Head Outside to Exercise, Nation's Air Quality Reviewed

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Spring is in the air for many parts of the United States, which makes our fancy turn to….exercising outdoors! Enjoying the warmer temperatures, it quickly becomes more fun to jump on the bike, take a run or hop into the kayak instead of spending time on the treadmill in the gym.

    And just in time for the great exodus to the outdoors, the American Lung Association has released its “State of the Air 2013” report. This report looks at the levels of ozone and particle pollution across the United States during 2009, 2010 and 2011. This report used data collected by states, tribes and federal agencies.

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    Key findings in the report include the following:

    • Approximately 42 percent of the U.S. population (131.8 million people) live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution.
    • Almost 40 percent of the U.S. population lived in areas that had unhealthy levels of ozone in 2009-2011.
    • Over 44.3 million people lived in areas that had unhealthy levels of deadly particle pollution year-round.
    • Fifteen percent of the U.S. population lived in areas where there were too many days where particle pollution was at an unhealthy level.
    • Eight percent of people living in the U.S. (24.8 million people) live in counties that have unhealthy levels of ozone, short-term particle pollution and year-round particle pollution.
    • Eighteen cities recorded lower year-round levels of particle pollution. Sixteen of these cities recorded their lowest levels ever.

    Poor air quality is especially problematic for five different groups. The first group includes children and teens since their lungs are still developing. The second group includes people who are 65 and older because their body increasingly becomes susceptible to respiratory and cardiovascular problems after breathing ozone and particle pollution. The third group (not surprisingly) includes people who have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease since breathing ozone and particle pollution can lead to numerous threats (such as chest pain, wheezing, coughing and emergency  visits to the hospital) and can shorten their lives. The fourth group involves people who have cardiovascular disease or diabetes, because they have an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes due to breathing particle pollution. The final group includes people with low incomes. These people often live close to the sources of pollution, such as major highways or factories. Furthermore, they often have diseases such as diabetes that put them at risk.

    So are there any places with clean air that can serve as models for the rest of us? Sure enough, the report offers multiple cities to learn from. For instance, four cities were recognized for not having any days with unhealthy levels of ozone or short-term particle pollution as well as being on the list of cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution. These cities include: Bismarck, ND; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL; Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL: and Rapid City, SD. Sixteen cities earned accolades for being the cleanest for both year-round and short-term particle pollution. These cities include: Banger, ME; Bismarck, ND; cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL; Colorado Springs, CO; Farmington, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Fort Collins-Loveland, CO; Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL; Palm-Bay, Melbourne-Titusville, FL; Prescott, AZ; Rapid City, SD; Redding, CA; Salinas, CA; Sarasota, FL; St. George, UT; and Tucson, AZ. Seven cities made the cleanest lists for ozone and year-round pollution. These cities are: Bismarck, ND; Burlington, VT; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL; Duluth, MN; Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL; Rapid City, SD; and Santa Fe-Espanola, NM. And 10 cities were recognized as being the cleanest as far as ozone and short-term particle pollution. There cities are: Bismarck, ND; Brownsville, TX; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL; Claremont-Lebanon, NH; Gainesville, FL; McAllen-Edinburg-Pharr, TX; Monroe, LA; Muscle Shoals, AL; Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL; and Rapid City, SD.

  • The American Lung Association offers a list of what needs to be addressed as well as ways that you can take action to encourage policymakers and businesses to make decisions that will benefit air quality. That way, everyone will be breathing easier when they exercise outside!

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    American Lung Association. (2013). American Lung Association “State of the Air 2013” report finds air quality improves nationwide despite more spikes in unhealthy air days.

    American Lung Association. (2013). State of the Air 2013.

Published On: April 30, 2013