Clean Air Month

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May is Clean Air Month, brought to us by the American Lung Association─now in its second century as the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. The mission? “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy.

Clean Air Month takes on a special significance this year, given recent congressional proposals to diminish the Clean Air Act. In April, a coalition of nearly 500 concerned health, consumer and business organizations sent letters urging Congress to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to protect Americans from toxic air pollution.

And with good reason. In 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act prevented 160,000 premature deaths; 1.7 million instances of asthma exacerbation; 54,000 cases of chronic bronchitis; as well as 41,000 respiratory and 45,000 cardiovascular hospital admissions. It is estimated that if today’s EPA standards are dismantled by amendments like these introduced in the Senate, 230,000 Americans will die prematurely in 2020 due to toxic air pollution.

Breathing polluted air can seriously harm your health and even shorten your life. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air is a report card on air pollution in communities across the nation, identifying the most─and the least─polluted cities in the nation. For example, the top 5 cleanest U.S. cities for ozone air pollution are:

  1. Honolulu, HI
  2. Fargo-Wahpeton, ND-MN
  3. Rochester, MN
  4. Santa Fe-Espanola, NM
  5. Bismarck, ND

Conversely, the top 5 most polluted cities for ozone air pollution are:

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
  2. Bakersfield-Delano, CA
  3. Visalia-Porterville, CA
  4. Fresno-Madera, CA
  5. Sacramento – Arden-Arcade -Yuba City, CA

But there is good news. The more you learn, the more you can protect your health and take steps to make our air cleaner and healthier. For example:

  • Choose a cleaner commute─car pool, use public transportation, bike or walk when possible.
  • Combine errands to reduce “cold starts” of your car and avoid extended idling.
  • Be sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Keep car, boat and other engines properly tuned, and avoid engines that smoke.
  • Follow gasoline refueling instructions for efficient vapor recovery. Be careful not to spill fuel and always tighten your gas cap securely.
  • Replace clogged air filters and improve your car’s gas mileage by as much as 10%─saving up to 55 gallons of gas each year.

Steps you can take to improve air quality will also help fight climate change. Drive less. Don’t burn wood or trash. Use less electricity. Make sure your school system requires clean buses. Remember, every little bit helps. Here’s to clean air now, and for many generations to come.

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