Smog Report: Half of U.S. Still Flunks
L.A. Still Tops Lung Association 'Worst Air' List
By Daniel DeNoon
WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD
on Wednesday, April 30, 2003
May 1, 2003 -- Smog threatens the health of nearly half of all Americans,
according to the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2003 report.
The report examines air quality data for 1999-2001, the most recent data
from the EPA. It ranks air quality for ozone pollution.
Los Angeles holds on to its top ranking as the U.S. city with the worst air.
Portland, Ore., and San Francisco are the two largest cities among the 20
cities with the best air.
The release of the report also marks the beginning of the annual ozone
season, when the summer heat traditionally increases the level of smog.
The ALA's annual report looks at ozone levels across the country. Ozone, one
of the most toxic ingredients in the soupy air we all know as smog, is a
form of oxygen that even at low levels can cause health problems such as
shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.
This year, the nation's air got a little bit better -- but that's only
because of lucky weather, says ALA president John Kirkwood. Yet the report
showed that 55% of counties with ozone monitors received an "F" rating on
"We can point to no significant ozone improvements other than a few lucky
changes in the weather," Kirkwood says in a news release. "We can't depend
on Mother Nature to protect Americans from disease and death caused by
breathing human-made smog. It's time to fight for our right to breathe clean
air and for America to solve the air pollution problems that Americans
The report is highly critical of the Bush administration's efforts to
"repeal, weaken, and delay" the nation's Clean Air Act.
This year's 20 most polluted metropolitan areas are:
1. Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, Calif.
2. Fresno, Calif.
3. Bakersfield, Calif.
4. Visalia-Tulare-Porterville, Calif.
5. Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, Texas
6. Sacramento-Yolo, Calif.
7. Merced, Calif.
8. Atlanta, Ga.
9. Knoxville, Tenn.
10. Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, N.C.-S.C.
11. Washington-Baltimore, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.V.
12. Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas
13. Philadelphia-Wilmington-Atlantic City, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md.
14. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, Conn.-N.J.-N.Y.
15. Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz.
16. Baton Rouge, La.
17. Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point, N.C.
18. Memphis, Tenn.-Ark.-Miss.
19. Birmingham, Ala.
20. San Diego, Calif.
And the 20 metro areas with the least ozone air pollution, in alphabetical
* Bellingham, Wash.
* Brownsville-Harlingen-San Benito, Texas
* Colorado Springs, Colo.
* Duluth-Superior, Minn.-Wis.
* Elkhart-Goshen, Ind.
* Eugene-Springfield, Ore.
* Fargo-Moorhead, N.D.-Minn.
* Flagstaff, Ariz.-Utah
* Greeley, Colo.
* Honolulu, Hawaii
* Laredo, Texas
* Lincoln, Neb.
* Medford-Ashland, Ore.
* Portland-Salem, Ore.-Wash.
* Salinas, Calif.
* San Francisco
* San Luis Obispo-Atascadero-Paso Robles, Calif.
* Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
* Sioux Falls, S.D.
* Spokane, Wash.
SOURCES: State of the Air 2003, May 1, 2003, American Lung Association. News
Release, American Lung Association.