The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2014” report was released yesterday and it shows that all eight counties in Massachusetts with particle pollution monitors cut year-round particle pollution (soot) levels compared to the 2013 report and the Boston metro area had its lowest year-round levels of particle pollution to date. This is great news for cardiovascular disease, but there is still work to be done, because at the same time, five Massachusetts counties experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone (smog) while six experienced fewer days. And while the Boston metro area’s ranking on the list of most polluted cities for ozone improved from 68th in 2013 to tied for 69th in 2014, actual ozone levels worsened.
Particle pollution, called fine particulate matter or PM, is a deadly cocktail of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols that can spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end. The body's natural defenses, coughing and sneezing, fail to keep these microscopic particles from burrowing deep within the lungs, triggering serious problems such as asthma and heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and even early death. Much like ozone pollution is likened to sunburn on the lungs, exposure to particle pollution has been compared to rubbing sandpaper on the lungs.
State of the Air 2014 report found that more than more than 147 million people – more than half of all Americans- live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Safeguards are necessary to protect the health of the millions of people living in counties with dangerous levels of either ozone or particle pollution that can cause wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death. Those at greatest risk from air pollution include infants, children, older adults, anyone with lung diseases like asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works or exercises outdoors. There is still work to be done and we look forward to working with the American Lung Association on improving the air everyone breaths!