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Bay Area ranked among nation’s worst spots for air pollution

Even as the nation makes strides cleaning up dirty air, many parts of California, including the Bay Area, are struggling to reduce air pollution in the face of climate change. The hordes of fossil-fuel-burning cars and trucks that have become emblematic of the Golden State are combining with overall hotter, dryer weather — and wildfires and dust storms — to fill the skies with more and more soot, according to a report released Tuesday by the American Lung Association. The Bay Area was alongside parts of the Central Valley, which after years of improvement saw increases in the number of days with unhealthy levels of soot between 2012 and 2015, the report shows. The Bay Area ranked among the country’s 10 worst regions for what is known as particle pollution. While much of the problem can be traced to the five-year drought, which came to an end this winter, the American Lung Association expects only temporary relief from sooty skies as the state struggles with a future marked by a changing climate. “We were lucky to have a wet year this year,” said Bonnie Holmes-Gen, senior director for air quality and climate change with the American Lung Association in California. Alongside ozone, particle pollution is one of the most widespread air pollutants. The tiny solid and liquid particles that define it proliferated with the wildfires that raged during the drought — and the lack of rain that normally tempers dust and debris from construction and agriculture. More traditional sources of particle pollution include tailpipe emissions and power plants. Both are hazardous and pose increased risk for heart disease, lung cancer and asthma. While the number of days that the Bay Area as a whole experienced unhealthy levels of particle pollution is not contained in the report, the region is listed as being the nation’s sixth-worst for short-term spikes in particulate matter and fourth-worst for year-round totals. Just a few days with pollution measuring above the federal Air Quality Index each year is enough to present a serious health risk, according to the report. Mirroring the national picture, most of California saw a drop in ozone, also called smog, which the American Lung Association credited to tighter state and federal environmental laws. [...] the state’s notorious traffic congestion left it one of most ozone-polluted areas in the nation. Between ozone and particle pollution, more than 90 percent of Californians live in areas with unhealthy air at some point in the year, according to the report. While there is room for improvement, the American Lung Association’s 18th “State of the Air” report shows a trend of less pollution since its first publication. Since last year’s release, the number of people nationwide who were exposed to unhealthy air at some point dropped from 166 million to 125 million. The report’s authors said it was critical that the government continue tough environmental policies like the federal Clean Air Act.

Article by By Kurtis Alexander (c) Page One News - Read full story here.