Breathing in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh can be hazardous



Pittsburgh, a former steel-making center once known for its sooty skies, is the worst US city for short-term particle pollution, the American Lung Association announced in a recent report.

It was the first time a city outside California topped any of the association's three lists for different kinds of pollution in its annual 'State of the Air' report.

Greater Los Angeles was listed as the worst city for ground-level ozone - also known as smog - and year-round particle pollution. Pittsburgh had the second-worst year-round particle pollution, the association said.

The shift occurred because Los Angeles took action to clean up particle pollution - tiny particles that can be inhaled and lodge in the lungs - the association's Janice Nolen said.

In Pittsburgh, the biggest source of particle pollution is a steel plant in nearby Clareton, Nolen said. There are plans to reduce that kind of pollution in Pittsburgh - but, because the report uses data from 2004 to 2006, those changes are not evident in the current report, she added.

Overall, the report found that 42 percent of US residents - or nearly 125 million people - lived in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution. "We had seen some real improvement in a lot of areas in the first part of this century, but now we're seeing a levelling-off" - Nolen said.

The earlier improvement was due, partly, to measures to clean air pollution from power plants in the eastern US, she said.
However, other factors are pushing up pollution levels, including more electricity generation and an increase in the distances travelled by polluting vehicles.
"That can add pollution and can make it harder to clean up the pollution already there."

Los Angeles

Ozone - a gas that forms when sunlight reacts with emissions from motor vehicles, factories and power plants - irritates the respiratory tract and can cause asthma attacks, coughing, wheezing, chest pains and premature death, the report said.

Short-term particle pollution, which affects over 81 million US residents, involves sharp, brief rises in the level of sooty particles in the air, lasting from hours to several days. Those episodes can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and emergency-room visits for asthma and cardiovascular disease and can increase the risk of early death.

Long-term particle pollution involves lower levels of pollution over longer periods of time, which can increase risk of hospitalisation for asthma, damage lungs and increase the risk of premature death.

To download the report - 'State of the Air' - Click Here

For more information on the American Lung Association - Click Here