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Lung Association: Mixed Progress For Folks Who Breathe

PHOTO: The American Lung Association State of the Air 2014 report shows nearly half of all Americans live in areas where the air quality is unhealthy at times. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith.
PHOTO: The American Lung Association State of the Air 2014 report shows nearly half of all Americans live in areas where the air quality is unhealthy at times. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith.
May 2, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Clean air rules have done some good, but not enough, according to the American Lung Association.

A new study by the group found the nation's air quality overall has worsened in the past few years, with nearly half of everyone living in areas where the air is unhealthy at times.

But the picture is still better than it was 10 years ago, says Janice Nolen, assistant vice president for national policy with the Lung Association.

"Cleaning up power plants, cleaning up diesel, cleaning up cars, cleaning up SUVS – things like that – have made a huge difference in reducing pollution across the nation," she says.

The report looks at ozone and small particles. Those pollutants are connected with health problems – especially affecting the very young, the very old and people of all ages with lung and heart conditions, as well as disproportionately affecting those living in poverty.

According to the report, four counties in Arkansas had failing ozone or particulate pollution levels.

The report says there were some signs of progress in those areas over the last decade. But Nolen points out in the future climate change and higher temperatures may start having a negative impact.

She says the next clean-air steps will require cracking down on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.

"We've got to have some reduction in those things that are triggering that heat to grow, and that means we need to have standards that limit and reduce the amount of carbon pollution that's produced by coal-fired power plants," she says.

The report also recommends stronger vehicle emission standards, improving the air-quality monitoring network and cutting wood smoke.

It suggests adopting ozone standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and educating people about what they can do to reduce pollution, as well as how to protect themselves when air quality is poor.



Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR