New report pinpoints unhealthiest places to breathe in the US

The greater Los‚ÄČAngeles area has the worst ozone problem in the nation but the number of unhealthful days is on a declining trend with 2015 the best year so far

All major cities had fewer unhealthy ozone days.

In the Bay Area, San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma counties got A grades for ozone, while Napa and San Mateo counties received B grades.

The American Lung Association wasn't able to get exact data for all the counties in our region because a lot of them don't meet the population requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency to set up monitors.

Pirolli told News 8 unhealthy levels of air pollution can put people at risk.

The lung association's 2017 "State of the Air" report reviewed air quality data from the EPA and other entities, looking at ozone levels as well as daily and annual levels for fine particle pollution, which is a mix of microscopic solid and liquid particles suspended in the air. The area is one of six in the country without any days over the past year in which ozone or particle pollution reached unhealthy levels.

Trends show things are headed in a positive direction - especially in upstate NY where no counties received failing marks for air pollution in this year's report.

High levels of pollution can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes. "They can also cause lung cancer and early death", said Fresno area physician Dr. Alex Sherriffs.

Marin earned an "A" for ozone pollution.

But El Centro ranked seventh in the nation for year-round particle pollution. Short-term particle spikes can be extremely unsafe and even lethal.

Each year the "State of the Air" reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution (smog) and particle pollution (soot).

San Diego County's air quality has dramatically improved since the year 2000.

The Charleston metro area had no unhealthy days for ozone in 2017, and averaged less than one day of unhealthy particle pollution levels per year in a calculation based on various readings over three years. Many of these spikes were directly linked to wildfire events, which are likely to increase because of climate change.

Other changes have also led to cleaner air. The state's weather and geography complicate efforts to reduce emissions.

"There is a definite correlation between pollution and respiratory illnesses, as the air quality worsens so is the incidence of respiratory illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis, including allergic skin conditions as well", said Dr. Eduardo Villarama, regional medical director for Golden Valley Health Centers, in an email to the Merced Sun-Star.

But healthy air protections are under attack, and must be defended to save lives here and across the country.

"We've come a long way since the smoggy days of the 1970s", she said.

In Trump's budget proposal, the agency's budget will be cut by 31% that would include weakening or eliminating the Clean Air Act, which, according to the report, it has been the most important tool in the fight for healthy air by driving emission reductions for more than 47 years.

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