People of color were 3.6 times as likely as whites to be breathing the most polluted air
By Juliet Martinez
The American Lung Association’s 23rd annual State of the Air report card found that more than four in 10 Americans live with unhealthy levels of air pollution. The organization grades counties across each state for ozone and particle pollution using data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The 2022 report contains data and analysis from 2018 to 2020.
People of color had almost quadruple the risk of breathing the most polluted air compared with white people, the report said.
Three of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties received an “F” grade on the state’s ozone report card. Those were Allegheny, Bucks and Philadelphia counties. Allegheny County had 16 orange days, and one red day for ozone pollution, which can cause coughing, make breathing difficult, and aggravate asthma and other lung conditions, according to the EPA.
Orange days refer to days when the air quality is unsafe for people who are sensitive to air pollution, such as babies, children and teens, people with lung disease, and anyone exercising or working outdoors. Red days are days on which the pollution level is unhealthy and unsafe for anyone who is sensitive; others may become sick as well.
Allegheny and Lancaster counties both received “F” grades on particle pollution. Allegheny County recorded a three-year average of 21 orange days and five red days. Particle pollution is also called PM and refers to particles smaller than one-fifth the width of a human hair. The EPA says exposure to particle pollution can cause cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes, asthma attacks and reduced lung development in children.
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