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Sharp Spike Seen in Air Pollution Levels in Recent Years

Last Updated: April 21, 2022.

THURSDAY, April 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- After 23 years of decreases in overall air pollution levels, a new report shows that the United States recorded the highest ever number of "very unhealthy" and "hazardous" air quality days between 2018 and 2020.

In its "State of the Air" 2022 report, the American Lung Association said more than 137 million Americans reside in counties with unhealthy air, and the number of people who faced increases in daily spikes of deadly particulate air pollution was nearly 9 million higher than in last year's report. People of color were disproportionately affected by polluted air, the association added in a statement on the key findings of its report.

Compared with White people, people of color were 61 percent more likely to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one of three types of air pollution and 3.6 times more likely to live in a county with failing grades for all three types: year-round particle pollution, short-term particle pollution, and ozone. Furthermore, about 1.5 million pregnant people lived in counties with a failing grade for at least one pollutant, according to the report.

A climate change-driven increase in wildfires -- especially in the West -- may be one of the reasons for the worsening air pollution nationwide, because smoke from Western wildfires can drift as far as New York City. Wildfire season now lasts all year due to the climate crisis.

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