Birmingham gets an F as air quality improves across nation

(CNN) –

Air quality across the nation is improving. New NASA images show a dramatic reduction in pollution over the nations largest cities.

Birmingham’s air quality is also improving. But a 2014 assessment by the American Lung Association shows the Magic City still has a long way to go stating on its website that the air in Birmingham and surrounding areas “may put your health at risk.”

Birmingham graded as a “B” in particle pollution over a 24-hour-period. But receives an “F” when factoring in Ozone.

In fact the report places Birmingham at #23 of the top 25 most polluted cities in the nation.

But if NASA data holds up that will soon change. Over the last decade, nitrogen dioxide has decreased in cities across the U.S.

Especially along the densely-populated I-95 corridor in the northeast, the difference is striking.

Nitrogen dioxide is a yellow-brown smog that comes mostly from vehicles, and coal-burning power plants.

It forms ozone which is the gas in the atmosphere that burns our lungs.

So why is the air getting better, even though the number of cars on the road has increased?

NASA Scientist Brian Duncan explains, “Our pollutant levels are going down, and that’s because cars are becoming more fuel-efficient.”

Newer coal-burning power plants now scrub much of the pollution out before it can get to our lungs.

The World Health Organization says in 2012, about 3.7-million people around the world died from the effects of outdoor air-pollution. Most of them lived in Asia.

Experts say the people who smog has hit the hardest are the ones who can really feel this improvement in our air.

Janice E. Nolen with the American Lung Association explains, “People who have asthma, they definitely can tell that they’re breathing easier. And it’s easier when we’re looking at it on a long-term basis or looking at hospital records or other medical records.”

Nitrogen dioxide levels are also a good indicator of how other pollution is trending.

But Nolen adds, it’s not all good news…there are other pollutants causing harm.

“We have about half the nation who lives in counties that have unhealthy levels of air-pollution.”

More than 140-million Americans who still live in areas that have unhealthy air…

The worst place in the country for ozone pollution: Los Angeles even though that city has made big improvements…

The American lung association says LA has cut its pollution by about a third over the past 15 years.

You can read the World Lung Associations Report on Birmingham by clicking here.


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