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Air Quality Improving in Many U.S. Cities: Report
Date:4/25/2012

cals, metals and aerosols can lead to early death, heart attacks and strokes.

Four cities -- Pittsburgh, San Diego, Philadelphia and Visalia, Calif. -- dropped to their lowest levels of short-term particle pollution on record, the report noted. Birmingham, Ala., Detroit and York, Pa., dropped off the list of the 25 most polluted cities entirely -- a first for all three.

The lung association cautioned that much work remains to be done to improve air quality in the United States. Forty percent of Americans, or 127 million people, live in areas where air pollution poses a threat to their health. These people are at greater risk for wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death, the report noted.

Infants, children, seniors and anyone with lung diseases, heart disease or diabetes are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution. Those with low incomes or jobs that require them to work outside are also at greater risk.

The report revealed that 38.5 percent of Americans live in counties that received an "F" for air quality because of unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution, which can cause chronic health problems. Meanwhile, almost 50 million people in the United States live in counties with unhealthy surges in particle pollution levels. Year-round particle pollution threatens another 6 million Americans.

The standards set under the Clean Air Act are a driving force behind the improvement in air quality in the United States, according to the lung association. The legislation aims to clean up major sources of air pollution such as coal-fired power plants and diesel engines to reduce the amount of ozone and particle pollution in the air. The EPA estimated that cutting air pollution through this measure would prevent at least 230,000 deaths and save $2 trillion annually by 2020.

The report warned, however, that the positive trend in U.S. air quality will not continue if opponents of the Clean Air Act g
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