WEDNESDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- About 154 million Americans -- or more than half the U.S. population -- live in areas where the air is so polluted that it is often dangerous to breathe, a new report says.
Residents of Honolulu and Santa Fe-Espanola, N.M., on the other hand, are in luck: Those two cities had air that is among the country's cleanest -- and they were the only two in the nation that had no days in which smog and soot levels reached unhealthy ranges.
In contrast, residents of California, which is famed for its healthful lifestyle, are breathing some of the worst air.
California cities topped the list of U.S. cities with the worst air pollution, according to "State of the Air 2011," the American Lung Association's annual report on air quality, which was released April 27.
And about 48 percent of U.S. residents live in counties where smog (ozone) is too high, 20 percent live in areas where there are too many short-term spikes in pollution and 6 percent live in areas with harmful year-round soot (particle pollution).
About 17 million Americans live in areas afflicted by all three air pollution hazards.
This worries scientists since research suggests air pollution threatens human health -- and not just the lungs.
On days in which smog levels spike, there's an increase in hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, heart attacks and stroke in the two or three days following it, said Michael Jerrett, a professor of environmental health sciences at University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health.
Besides posing both long-term and short-term risks, pollution can contribute to low birth weights, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and, ultimately, shorter life spans, he warned.
This is due, in part, to insidious changes caused by chronic exposure to pollution. According to Dr. Norman Edelman,
All rights reserved