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leaf as lungs shape in blue ball,surrounded by gray toxic smoke,CO2.
Planet and People Connection
Article Abstracts
Jul 30, 2021
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Planet and People Connection

World Lung Cancer Day Focuses Attention on Air Pollution

By KnoWEwell
Article Abstracts
Nov 29, 2021

Lung cancer is the number-one cancer killer in the US. In recognition of World Lung Cancer Day 2021, on August 1, the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative is focusing on risk factors—not only smoking and exposure to radon gas but air pollution.

Clean air is essential for healthy lungs yet nearly half of all American live with unhealthy air. For the past 22 years, the American Lung Association has analyzed data from official air quality monitors to compile the State of the Air report. The 2021 report finds that despite some progress on cleaning up air pollution, over 135 million people in the country live in places with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. People of color are over three times more likely than White people to be breathing the most polluted air.

According to the American Lung Association, in the years since the first report was published, in 2000, the Clean Air Act initially succeeded in reducing emissions from transportation, power plants, and manufacturing. But in recent years, there is evidence that a changing climate is making it harder to protect human health.

The three years covered by State of the Air 2021 rank among the six hottest years on record. High ozone days and spikes in particle pollution related to heat and wildfires are putting millions more at risk and making it harder for states and cities to control air pollution.

Some groups of people are especially vulnerable to illness and death from exposure to unhealthy levels of air pollution. Many counties in California rank among the most polluted in the country in terms of ozone and particle pollution. Cities in Vermont, Virginia, New York, Hawaii, and North Carolina earned the top score for being the cleanest in ozone and air pollution. The American Lung Association’s Compare Your Air calculator is a searchable guide to air quality nationwide.  

To address the health crisis of climate change, systemic change and cultural shifts in energy use are needed, says the American Lung Association. Measures include choosing clean renewable electricity and reducing energy consumption; driving less, choosing an electric vehicle or bike, and using public transit; calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to set more protective air pollution standards; and ensuring cleaner air at the community level by not burning wood or trash.

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