Air pollution is unfortunately not a new issue among our civilization. There have been health risks and diseases linked to poor air quality documented since at least the beginning of the Industrial era. In fact, this is not even the first time I have discussed the negative effects of air pollution in a blog post. I discussed “The Great Pea Souper” on The Phiver blog for UT Dallas’s Public Health Initiative back in February. This was a smog event in London in 1952 that caused thousands of respiratory problems and deaths due to stagnant, polluted air in the city. The city was essentially shut down until the weather patterns changed and moved the smog out of the city. The UK’s BBC has a video about it here.
Recently, there has been a similar smog covering the city of Delhi, India. Due to the severity of the pollution, CNN states, “all public and private schools [were closed], requesting instead that … children remain indoors… they banned incoming trucks and halted civil construction projects” and are even contemplating a partial ban on private car use as a means to limit the resident’s contribution to the polluted air in the city. To put this into perspective, Berkeley Earth has a study that equates air pollution to damaged caused by smoking cigarettes.
Air quality levels are monitored globally due to their link to health conditions. The WHO outlines the process of measuring condition and why it is so important. Of all the cities that the WHO collects air quality data on, 14 of the 15 worst cities are located in Asia and the Middle East. The lone remainder is Cameroon in Africa. The US cities with the worst air pollution and with the cleanest air levels are determined in an annual State of the Air report. National Geographic does a great job of breaking down the report into brief highlights about the US regions. This makes the states of US air quality a little easier to grasp. While we are not the worst country for air pollution, we certainly do have our problems with achieving clean, healthy air.
If you are interested in determining the quality of the air in your zip code, you can determine this on the American Lung Association’s website.