Riverside County joined 26 other counties in California graded "F" for air quality on the American Lung Association's 2014 "State of the Air" report card, which was released this week.
"The past 15 years have ... confirmed that air pollution is a more serious threat to our health than we'd previously known," said Harold Wimmer, president of the ALA.
"For example, the World Health Organization determined last fall that particle pollution causes lung cancer," he said. "Air pollution remains a pervasive public health threat in the United States, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must continue to follow the Clean Air Act and set and enforce standards that protect the public health."
According to the 15th annual State of the Air report, Riverside County scored failing grades in smog -- or ozone -- levels and in the average daily presence of particle pollution, which the EPA defines as dirt, dust, soot and other "inhalable coarse particles" larger than 2.5 micrometers.
Despite the dismal grades, the ALA study indicated particle pollution had dropped 70 percent since 2000, based on the weighted average number of days pollution levels in Riverside County stayed above "orange" -- or in the unhealthy range -- according to EPA standards.
Similarly, the number of "high ozone days" in the county dropped 33 percent from 1996, according to the report.
The data is intended to underscore the risks to vulnerable populations within a region. According to the report, the county's substandard air quality poses a threat to nearly 400,000 residents diagnosed with pediatric and adult asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and cardiovascular disease.
Findings showed more than 30 million people across the state were considered at risk.
Six of the top 10 "most polluted" metropolitan regions in the nation are in California, which the report identified as:
- Los Angeles-Long Beach;
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-New Castle, Ohio-Weirton, West Virginia;
- Fairbanks, Alaska;
- Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah;
- El Paso, Texas-Las Cruces, New Mexico; and
- San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland.
"The Clean Air Act has been proven to deliver tremendous health benefits," Wimmer said. "Congress must allow the Clean Air Act to continue to protect our health and ensure that the EPA and the states have adequate funding to monitor and protect the nation from air pollution and new threats caused by increased temperatures."
— City News Service.