Lung Assn: More than 4 in 10 Americans Live with Unhealthy Air; California cities among worst

Repost from The American Lung Association

More than 4 in 10 Americans Live with Unhealthy Air; Eight Cities Suffered Most Polluted Air Ever Recorded

American Lung Association’s 20th annual ‘State of the Air’ report sounds the alarm on worsened air quality driven by climate change, placing health and lives at risk

Trend charts and rankings for metropolitan areas, county grades are available at Lung.org/sota

(April 24, 2019) – CHICAGO  The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report finds that an increasing number of Americans—more than 4 in 10—lived with unhealthy air quality, placing their health and lives at risk. The 20th annual air quality “report card” found that 141.1 million people lived in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution, an increase of more than 7.2 million Americans since the last annual report. Eight cities recorded their highest number of days with unhealthy spikes in particle pollution since the nation began monitoring this pollutant 20 years ago. And the nation recorded more days with air quality considered hazardous, when air quality reached “emergency conditions”—Maroon on the air quality index—than ever before.

“The 20th annual ‘State of the Air’ report shows clear evidence of a disturbing trend in our air quality after years of making progress: In many areas of the United States, the air quality is worsening, at least in part because of wildfires and weather patterns fueled by climate change,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer. “This increase in unhealthy air is eye-opening, and points to the reality that the nation must do more to protect the public from serious, even life-threatening harm. There is no clearer sign that we are facing new challenges than air pollution levels that have broken records tracked for the past twenty years, and the fact that we had more days than ever before when monitored air quality reached hazardous levels for anyone to breathe.”

The 2019 “State of the Air” report analyzed the three years with the most recent quality-assured data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies: 2015-2017. Notably, those three years were the hottest recorded in global history. When it comes to air quality, changing climate patterns fuel wildfires and lead to worsened ozone pollution. This degraded air quality threatens the health of Americans, especially those more vulnerable such as children, older adults and those living with a lung disease.

Each year, “State of the Air” reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution. Each is dangerous to public health and each can be lethal. The 2019 “State of the Air” report found that more than 20 million people lived in counties that had unhealthy levels of air quality in all categories.

Particle Pollution
Unhealthy particles in the air result from many sources, including wildfires, wood-burning devices, coal-fired power plants and diesel engines. Particle pollution can be deadly. Technically known as PM2.5, these microscopic particles lodge deep in the lungs and can enter the bloodstream, triggering asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can cause lung cancer.

The report has two grades for particle pollution: One for “short-term” particle pollution, or daily spikes in the pollutant, and one for the annual average or “year-round” level that represents the concentration of particles day-in and day-out in each location.

Short-Term Particle Pollution
More cities experienced days when there were spikes in particle pollution, with eight cities of the 25 most-polluted reaching their highest number of such days in the report’s 20-year history: Fairbanks, Alaska; Salinas, CA; Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA; Missoula, Montana; Bismarck, ND; Bend-Pineville, OR; Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d’Alene, WA-ID; and Yakima, Washington. Wildfires in 2017, especially in Montana, Washington and California, and woodsmoke from heating homes contributed to many of these dangerous spikes. Bakersfield, CA, remained the #1 most polluted city for short-term particle levels, as it has for eight of the past 10 reports. Overall, daily spikes in particle pollution are getting more frequent, and, in many cases, more severe, with four days reaching hazardous, Maroon alert levels in 2017, the highest number ever. Nationwide, more than 49.6 million people suffered those episodes of unhealthy spikes in particle pollution in the 76 counties where they lived.

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution (24-hour PM2.5):

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  3. Fairbanks, Alaska
  4. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  5. Missoula, Montana
  6. Yakima, Washington
  7. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  8. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
  9. Seattle-Tacoma, Washington
  10. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia

Year-Round Particle Pollution
More than 20.5 million people lived in counties with unhealthy levels of year-round particle pollution, which is more than in the last two annual “State of the Air” reports. Steps to clean up emissions that cause particle pollution helped reduce some averages. Meanwhile, major sources like agriculture, power plants and industrial sources still emit too much particulate matter, and wildfires in the western U.S. contributed to higher levels of particle pollution in several cities. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA, topped the list as most polluted by year-round particle levels in this year’s report, tying its previous record for the highest level ever reached.

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5):

  1. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  2. Bakersfield, California
  3. Fairbanks, Alaska
  4. Visalia, California
  5. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  6. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  7. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia
  8. El Centro, California
  9. Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio
  10. Medford-Grants Pass, Oregon

 Ozone Pollution
Ozone pollution, often referred to as smog, harms lung health, essentially causing a sunburn of the lung. Specifically, inhaling ozone pollution can cause shortness of breath, trigger coughing and asthma attacks, and may shorten life. Warmer temperatures make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up.

Significantly more people suffered unhealthy ozone pollution in the 2019 report than in the last two “State of the Air” reports. Approximately 134 million people lived where they experienced too many high ozone days, the highest number of people exposed since the 2016 report. This report shows the changing climate’s impact on air quality, as ozone pollution worsened during the global record-breaking heat years tracked in the 2019 report.

Of the 10 most polluted cities for ozone, seven did worse than in last year’s report, including many of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Los Angeles’s air quality worsened, and it remains #1 for most ozone-polluted city in the nation. Only Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera-Hanford and San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland had fewer days with high ozone than in the 2018 report.

Top 10 Most Ozone-Polluted Cities:

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  2. Visalia, California
  3. Bakersfield, California
  4. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  5. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  6. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, California
  7. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
  8. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  9. Houston-The Woodlands, Texas
  10. New York-Newark, New York–New Jersey-Connecticut-Pennsylvania

Cleanest Cities
The “State of the Air” also recognizes the nation’s cleanest cities, and just like last year’s report, only six cities qualified for that status. To rank as one of the nation’s cleanest cities, a city must experience no high ozone or high particle pollution days and must rank among the 25 cities with the lowest year-round particle pollution levels during 2015-2017.

Cleanest U.S. Cities (listed in alphabetical order)

  1. Bangor, Maine
  2. Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii
  4. Lincoln-Beatrice, Nebraska
  5. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
  6. Wilmington, North Carolina

“Every American deserves to breathe healthy air that won’t make them sick. The American Lung Association calls on the Administration and Congress to protect and prioritize Americans’ health by taking urgent action to fight air pollution and address climate change,” Wimmer said.

Learn more about the 20th anniversary of the “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, the health impacts of climate change and threats to air quality in metro regions nationwide, contact Allison MacMunn at the American Lung Association at Media@Lung.org or 312-801-7628.

Key Findings

State of the Air 2017: Key Findings

More than four in 10 people live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe.  Learn More

City Rankings

State of the Air 2017: City Rankings

Which cities have the highest levels of air pollution? Which are the cleanest? Check out the lists here.  Learn More

Health Risks

State of the Air 2017: Health Risks

Ozone and particle pollution are the most widespread pollutants—and among the most dangerous.  Learn More

For the Media

State of the Air 2017: For the Media

Journalists can access press releases, experts available for interview, b-roll, the full “State of the Air” report and more.  Learn More

 

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    Stanford study explains how climate change widens gap between haves and have-nots

    New Stanford study shows a warming planet worsens global economic inequalities

    By LISA M. KRIEGER, Bay Area News Group, April 22, 2019

    The difference between the economic output of the world’s cool wealthy nations and hot struggling nations is 25 percent larger today than it would have been without global warming, according to researchers Noah Diffenbaugh and Marshall Burke.

    “Our results show that most of the poorest countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming,” said climate scientist Diffenbaugh. “At the same time, the majority of rich countries are richer than they would have been.”

    Much of the debate over climate change focuses on future risks of flooding and other disasters. But this analysis, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows the price that many countries have already paid.

    Previous work found that during warm years, northern nations like Norway, Sweden and Iceland get an economic boost, while tropical and subtropical nations like India, Nigeria and Brazil suffer from slowed productivity.

    The new study takes a much broader and longer look at the impact of climate change. Although economic inequality between countries has decreased in recent decades, the gap would have narrowed faster without the problem, caused by growing concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.

    Climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, professor in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth) 

    For instance, India’s GDP — the aggregate value of the economy’s goods and services – is about 30 percent lower today than it would have been if there hadn’t been global warming, the researchers found. It’s 29 percent lower in Nigeria and 25 percent lower in Brazil.

    Norway’s GDP is 34 percent higher than in a world without climate change. It’s 32 percent higher in Canada and 9.5 percent higher in Great Britain.

    Agriculture explains much of the difference. In cool regions, warming lengthens the growing season and allows a greater diversity of crop species. In warm regions, heat reduces yield of commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat.

    But there are other contributors. Cool nations need to spend less money on energy to stay warm, while warm nations spend more money to stay cool.

    “Labor productivity declines when temperatures are high,” said Diffenbaugh. “There’s a decline in cognitive performance, as proven by student performance on standardized tests. There’s greater interpersonal conflict.”

    The research combines two approaches: A statistical analysis of the impact of temperature fluctuations on economic growth and 20 climate models created by research centers around the world and used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which advises the world’s governments under the auspices of the United Nations.

    The team calculated what each country’s economic output might have been had temperatures not warmed.

    For any particular nation, the annual impact is small, said Diffenbaugh.

    “But it is like a retirement account,” he said. “Small differences in what’s contributed 30, 40 or 50 years ago compounds, and creates a big difference in what is available when you retire.”

    While the biggest emitters enjoy on average about 10 percent higher per capita GDP today than they would have in a world without warming, the lowest emitters have been dragged down by about 25 percent.

    Such a drag “is on par with the decline in economic output seen in the U.S. during the Great Depression,” said Burke, Stanford assistant professor of Earth system science.

    “It’s a huge loss compared to where these countries would have been otherwise,” he said.

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      U.S. petroleum product exports set record high in 2018

      Annual average now at 5.6 million barrels per day (b/d), an increase of 366,000 b/d from 2017 levels

      Principle contributor Matt French, Today In Energy (US Energy Information Administration), April 23, 2019
      U.S. petroleum product exports
      Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly

      U.S. exports of total petroleum products set a record high in 2018, reaching an annual average of 5.6 million barrels per day (b/d), an increase of 366,000 b/d from 2017 levels. The three largest petroleum product exports from the United States in 2018 were distillate, propane, and motor gasoline. U.S. exports of motor gasoline (including blending components) and propane reached record highs in 2018, and exports of distillate reached their second-highest volume on record, following the high set in 2017.

      Total U.S. petroleum product exports set a record high in 2018 for the 16th consecutive year. From 2009 to 2013, distillate exports contributed the most to annual growth. However, from 2014 to 2018, exports of hydrocarbon gas liquids, which include propane, drove U.S. petroleum product export growth.

      As U.S. crude oil production increased over the past decade, gross inputs into refineries also increased. Petroleum products can be used domestically, exported, or put into inventory. In 2018, record-high levels of U.S. crude oil production and refinery runs helped refiners export large volumes of petroleum products, even with high levels of domestic demand.

      monthly U.S. distillate exports and destinations
      Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly

      Despite an 80,000 b/d decrease in exports in 2018 from 2017, distillate remained the most exported petroleum product in 2018, averaging 1.3 million b/d, or approximately 25% of U.S. refinery net production. Distillate exports were still more than 100,000 b/d higher than the previous five-year average (2013–2017). The United States exported distillate to 64 destinations in 2018, with the largest volumes destined for Mexico.

      Mexico received an average of 298,000 b/d, or 23% of U.S. distillate exports, increasing 42,000 b/d from 2017. Mexico’s increasing exports were likely driven by the country’s refineries that continued to operate below capacity in 2018, as reported by trade press. Brazil received the second-largest share of distillate exported from the United States, averaging 151,000 b/d (12% of U.S. distillate exports), down by 57,000 b/d from 2017. Chile, Peru, and the Netherlands comprise the remainder of the top five recipients of U.S. distillate exports.

      monthly U.S. propane exports and destinations
      Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly

      U.S. propane exports reached a record high of 972,000 b/d in 2018, surpassing the previous record of 914,000 b/d set in 2017. Propane exports in 2018 were greater than motor gasoline exports for the third consecutive year, and propane remained the second-largest U.S. petroleum product export. Unlike other U.S. petroleum product exports, which tend to stay in the Western Hemisphere, significant volumes of U.S. propane often reach Asian markets. Three of the top five destinations are in Asia. Propane is used in many Asian countries as a feedstock for producing ethylene and propylene, which are building blocks for chemical and plastic manufacturing.

      Japan received the largest share of U.S. propane exports, more than 258,000 b/d (or 7%) of total U.S. propane exports, an increase of 48,000 b/d from 2017 volumes. Exports to Korea and the Netherlands increased by 25,000 b/d and 21,000 b/d, respectively. However, exports to China fell by 62,000 b/d, a 49% year-over-year decline. Mexico received the second-largest share of U.S. propane exports in 2018 at an average of 131,000 b/d, which was down 7,000 b/d from 2017 levels.

      monthly U.S. motor gas exports and destinations
      Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly

      U.S. exports of motor gasoline (including blending components) reached 44 destinations in 2018 and set a record high of 951,000 b/d, up 126,000 b/d from 2017 levels. This increase in exports came despite high levels of domestic gasoline consumption, averaging 9.3 million b/d in 2018, only slightly lower than the record-high level set in 2017.

      U.S. refiner and blender net production of finished motor gasoline increased more than 100,000 b/d to 10.1 million b/d in 2018, a record high, and helped contribute to the simultaneous high levels of domestic consumption and export volumes. The five largest shares of U.S. gasoline exports were all in the Americas. In 2018, Mexico received 529,000 b/d of U.S. gasoline exports, or 56% of total U.S. gasoline exports, which was 60,000 b/d more than in 2017. Exports to Canada increased by 25,000 b/d, to average 62,000 b/d, or 6% of U.S. gasoline exports in 2018.

      Principal contributor: Matt French

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        Emissions at four Alberta tar sands mines 64% higher than previously reported

        Oilsands CO2 emissions may be far higher than companies report, scientists say

        By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix, April 23, 2019 | Full Story: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation @CBCNews

        Carbon pollution from four major tar sands/oil sands mines in northern Alberta is 64% higher than their owners reported using the United Nations’ standard emissions measurement framework, according to a study released this morning in the journal Nature Communications.

        “The researchers, mainly from Environment Canada, calculated emissions rates for four major oilsands surface mining operations using air samples collected in 2013 on 17 airplane flights over the area,” CBC reports. The study found gaps from 13 to 123% between reported and actual emissions at the four facilities, a finding that “could have profound consequences for government climate change strategies”.

        As for the fossils that submitted the data, “they’re just doing exactly what they’ve been told to do,” said John Liggio, an aerosol chemist at Environment and Climate Change Canada. “They’re not doing anything on purpose.”

        But that doesn’t make the research finding any less significant. Accurate numbers on carbon pollution “inform national and international climate policies,” the study states. “Such anthropogenic GHG emission data ultimately underpin carbon pricing and trading policies.”

        “The bottom line is we still have more work to do in terms of really determining how much is being emitted,” Liggio told CBC.

        The findings of this one study place Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions about 2.3 higher than they were previously believed to be, CBC notes. “If research eventually shows that other oilsands sites are subject to similar underreporting issues, Canada’s overall greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as 6% more than thought—throwing a wrench into the calculations that underpin government emissions strategies.”

        On CBC, Liggio explained the standard, “bottom-up” method by which fossils are required to report their production emissions is fraught with uncertainty, factoring in everything from the carbon intensity of the fuels they use to whether plant maintenance activities may have driven a temporary spike in emissions.

        With their flyovers, Liggio and his colleagues took “a ‘top-down’ approach involving hundreds of air samples taken during more than 80 hours of flights over four major surface mining operations in northern Alberta: Syncrude Canada’s Mildred Lake facility, Suncor’s Millennium and North Steepbank site, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s Horizon mine, and what was then Shell’s Albian Jackpine operation, now majority owned by Canadian Natural,” CBC explains.

        “Left out of the study, notably, are emissions from all oilsands operations that use in-situ extraction, pumping steam into the ground to get the petroleum out. About 80% of oilsands reserves, and the majority of current production, require in-situ extraction,” which means “the overall amount of underreported greenhouse gas emissions could be significantly higher.”

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