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American Lung Association State of the Air: 2006 Report Finds Too Many U.S. Cities Still Suffer from Air Pollution


Clean up of power plants is making a difference; EPA needs to clean up diesel emissions from boats, trains

NEW YORK, NY, April 27, 2006 – Federal efforts to control harmful air pollution from power plants are paying off, according to the annual American Lung Association State of the Air: 2006 report released today. The Lung Association is urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to further protect public health by curbing pollution from marine and locomotive sources.

“Our report shows real improvement in the air quality in much of the nation. We’re seeing the benefits of cleaning up dirty power plants with healthier air and a better quality of life. But that doesn’t mean it’s clean enough, and we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” said John L. Kirkwood, president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association.

The State of the Air: 2006 report finds that more than 150 million Americans still live in counties where they are exposed to unhealthful levels of air pollution. The report ranks the cities and counties with the dirtiest air, and provides county-by-county report cards on the two most pervasive air pollutants: particle pollution (more commonly called “soot”) and ozone (more commonly called “smog”). While air pollution is unsafe for everyone, some people are at increased risk because of their age or health situation. Those groups include people with asthma, adults over 65, children under 18, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD – chronic bronchitis and emphysema), people with cardiovascular disease, and those with diabetes.

“In the eastern United States, where dirty power plants have been polluting the air for decades, efforts to control particle pollution are making a difference in the lives of people at risk from exposure to unhealthful air,” said Janice Nolen, director, national policy at the American Lung Association.

The State of the Air: 2006 report also takes a closer look at pollution from marine and locomotive sources which contribute significantly to the air pollution problem. State and local air pollution officials estimate that pollution from these sources is responsible for 4,000 premature deaths a year. The U.S. EPA has promised to issue guidelines for limiting air pollution from marine and locomotive sources but has not yet acted. The marine sources include vessels ranging from tug boats and ferries to recreational boats. Emissions from boats foul the air in port cities like Houston, Los Angeles, and New York. Diesel-powered locomotives continue to pollute the air in cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh.

“Until we control marine and locomotive sources of pollution, the people in our port and industrial cities will not breathe cleaner air. EPA needs to stop dragging its feet and issue strong, effective guidelines to clean up these sources,” said Kirkwood.

New Evidence Shows Curbing Air Pollution Can Make a Difference
“We have mounting scientific proof that cleaning up the source of air pollution results in cleaner air and less illness and death. A study recently released showed that when particle air pollution declines in a city, the death rates also drop in that city,” said Nolen.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, monitored and analyzed air pollution and health data in six metropolitan areas: Watertown, MA; Kingston and Harriman, TN; St. Louis, MO; Steubenville, OH; Portage, Wyocena and Pardeeville, WI; and Topeka, KS. The researchers found that for each 1 microgram decrease in soot per cubic meter of air, death rates from cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness and lung cancer decrease by 3 percent – extending the lives of 75,000 people a year in the United States. The study was published in the March 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

“This study further proves that cleaning up big polluters does help protect public health,” said Nolen.

Too Many Counties Have Dangerously High Air Pollution Levels
The State of the Air: 2006 report shows that an estimated 42.5 million Americans – nearly 15% of the U.S. population – live in 34 counties with unhealthful levels of both ozone and particle pollution. Cities ranking among the worst in the nation for both pollutants include:

* West: Los Angeles, CA; Bakersfield, CA; Fresno, CA; Hanford, CA; Visalia, CA
* Northeast: New York, NY; Newark, NJ.; Bridgeport, CT
* Mid-Atlantic: Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD.; Pittsburgh, PA
* Midwest: Cleveland, OH; St. Louis, MO

How Can You Protect Yourself (and Your Family) From Air Pollution?
“The American Lung Association produced State of the Air: 2006 to educate all Americans about air quality in their communities. But it can’t stop there,” said Kirkwood. “Air pollution doesn’t respect city, county and state boundaries. We have the power to protect ourselves and the air we breathe. It’s time for everyone to pitch in and help.”

To see how your community ranks in the State of the Air: 2006 report and learn how you can protect yourself and your family from air pollution, go to:

About the American Lung Association
Beginning our second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Lung disease death rates continue to increase while other leading causes of death have declined. The American Lung Association funds vital research on the causes of and treatments for lung disease. With the generous support of the public, the American Lung Association is “Improving life, one breath at a time.” 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 log on to


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