SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The American Lung Association just released its 2023 “State of the Air” report that ranks cities and counties based on ozone and particle pollution, and California still faces the most difficult air pollution challenges in the nation.
This is the 24th year the report has been issued analyzing data taken by official air quality monitors across the United States.
According to the report, and despite efforts to clean the air, more than 98 percent of Californians live in a community earning a failing grade for unhealthy ozone pollution days.
The San Diego region is one of them.
“Truck traffic particular to ports of entry is a real source of harmful pollution,” said Will Barrett, National Senior Director for Advocacy and Clean Air with the American Lung Association.
Barrett notes that San Diego’s proximity to the border and its two large ports of entry, with thousands of cars and trucks commuting every day, pose a challenge.
“They are a major impact on improving air quality, these transportation sectors are one of the most dominant sources of why the San Diego region received a failing grade in our report,” he said.
Aside from San Diego, 12 other California cities are on the report’s list of the most polluted in the nation, including Los Angeles-Long Beach, Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera-Hanford, Sacramento-Roseville, San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, and Visalia.
Barrett said the ozone pollution and bad particles in the air can be very harmful, like “sunburn on the lungs.”
“They can generate a wide range of negative health consequences, certainly asthma attacks, lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes and premature deaths,” says Barrett. “Not only are we all at risk, but many communities face greater burdens due to air quality and often these are low-income communities and communities of color.”
According to the report, out of the nearly 120 million people who live in areas with unhealthy air quality, more than 64 million (54 percent), are people of color.
It also states that people of color were 64 percent more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade.
Barrett does mention regions like San Diego are showing improvement over previous years.
“While the region ranked 8th for the most unhealthy ozone pollution days, we also noted the most progress we’ve seen with the fewest number of days, so the trajectory is moving in the right direction, that’s important progress to note.”
Barrett said more improvement can be had if diesel-powered trucks were transitioned to zero-emission vehicles.
Nationally, the report found that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act.