Even Los Angeles, still the smog capital of the United States, reported one-third fewer unhealthy ozone days this year compared with more than a decade ago, according to the 2013 “State of the Air” analysis by the American Lung Association. And 15 of the 27 cities with the most ozone pollution improved their air quality, with 13 of the country’s most smog-polluted cities experiencing their best year yet – even though most continue to remain at dangerous levels.
Indeed, the overall quality of the nation’s air is much improved from a decade ago, according to the ALA analysis. Although some of this improvement can be attributed to a drop in energy use and changes to travel habits since the Great Recession, it is part of larger decades-long trend since 1970, when Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and passed the major provisions of the Clean Air Act.
Since then, air quality has steadily improved – even as energy-hungry industries and a population with a voracious appetite for carbon-based fuels have continued to expand. At the same time, however, the emissions that spew out the six most widespread air pollutants have dropped, the ALA reported.
Despite the improvements, these pollutants remain a concern for those with conditions diagnosed as asthma, diabetes, and other lung-related illnesses. And the ongoing release of carbon-based emissions continues to contribute to global warming – which is likely to get significantly worse if efforts to limit these are not accelerated soon, according to climate scientists meeting in Stockholm, who released their report Friday.