As climate change continues and warmer temperatures settle in for the summer months, cleaning up the air will become ever more challenging, according to the findings of this year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association. The three years covered in this report (2015-2017) ranked as the hottest years on record globally. Increased heat played a major role in the higher number of unhealthy air days, resulting in more cities having high days of ozone and short-term particle pollution that puts millions more people at risk.
With the prime of summer approaching, the importance of keeping the region’s air clean is at an all-time high. We must all work together to reduce emissions that negatively impact the climate as these changes – including worsened air quality – pose many threats to human health. Many people are at greater risk due to their age or because they have asthma or other chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease or diabetes. More than 2.5 million children and 9.7 million adults with asthma live in counties of the United States that received an “F” for at least one pollutant. Likewise, more than 306,000 children and 1.2 million adults with asthma live in counties failing all three tests. Here in St. Louis, we ranked 29 in the nation overall for most ozone-polluted cities.
While these statistics may come as a shock, thankfully, there are plenty of resources available to help residents of the St. Louis region take voluntary steps that can improve the quality of the air we breathe and improve our health overall. For starters, the Clean Air Partnership releases daily air quality forecasts to let residents know what the air quality will be during the summer months. Signing up to receive the air quality forecast via email at www.cleanair-stlouis.com helps to ensure St. Louisans know what the next day’s air quality will be and if they should alter their outdoor activities to minimize exposure to polluted air.
The latest “State of the Air” report also tells us that, for many areas in the U.S., ozone pollution levels are high enough during the summer months to cause health problems that can be felt right away. Immediate problems—in addition to increased risk of premature death—include shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks and increased risk of respiratory infections. Given that auto emissions are a key contributor to poor air quality, The Partnership encourages area residents to take advantage of the region’s public transit system, ridesharing and bike-sharing services that are all designed to limit the number of solo commuters on the road and offer great alternatives for the work commute or an option to hopping in your car for short trips. Supporting community plans for sidewalks or bike trails that provide ways to get around that don’t require a car is another step in the right direction for healthy air.
For more information and a host of additional tips to clean the air so individuals all across St. Louis breathe easier this summer, visit our website, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.