Jun 15, 2022 - Health

Most Americans live with unsafe air pollution levels

Illustration of a smokestack with an American flag on it.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than 92% of Americans live in a region with unsafe air pollution, which could lead to reduced life expectancy, according to the latest University of Chicago Air Quality Life Index.

Why it matters: Some Americans could add more than a year to their lives if they lived in a place with cleaner air.

  • Air pollution can affect not only the lungs but also the heart, upper airways and many other organs.

What they're saying: "Don't light things on fire and breathe it into your lungs," Erika Moseson, a pulmonologist on the American Thoracic Society Environmental Health Policy Committee, told Axios.

The details: The most polluted counties in the U.S. are in California.

  • In Mariposa County, which makes up part of Yosemite National Park; residents could gain 1.7 years of life expectancy if air quality there met new WHO standards, researchers concluded.

The big picture: Improving air quality is tantamount to improving health outcomes, and the U.S. still has a long way to go. 

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