If Bakersfield and Kern County were children bringing home report cards today, their parents would be very unhappy. The American Lung Association released its annual State of the Air 2014 report today and Kern County received failing grades across the board for its dirty air.
The county received an "F" for ozone pollution, an "F" for 24-hour particle pollution, and a "Fail" for annual particle pollution. In its comparison of 277 metropolitan areas in the country, Bakersfield was rated as the third worst for high ozone days, 24-hour particle pollution, and annual particle pollution.
In its 15th annual report, the association found that half of all Americans still live in areas where the air is unhealthy to breathe. Although particle pollution continues to decrease nationally, the report shows that levels of ozone (the main component of photochemical smog and the most widespread air pollutant) were much worse than shown in last year's report.
From a Kern County perspective, the bad air poses a significant health risk to several different groups of people, including 22,400 children with pediatric asthma, 52,552 adults with asthma, 26,262 people with COPD, 36,921 people with cardiovascular disease, and 54,932 people with diabetes. Additionally, 255,815 children and teens under 18, as well as 80,525 adults 65 & over face general health risks from air pollution. All of this from a county population of only 856,158.
Only the Fresno-Madera and Visalia-Poterville-Hanford metropolitan areas had worse particle pollution than Bakersfield. The Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area topped the list of Most Polluted Cities for ozone.
“We are happy to report continued reduction of year-round particle pollution across the nation, thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “However, this improvement represents only a partial victory."
Wimmer went on to note the effect that climate change is and will be having on the nation's progress toward cleaner air by saying, "...warmer temperatures increase risk for ozone pollution, so climate change sets the stage for tougher challenges to protect human health. We must meet these challenges head on to protect the health of millions of Americans living with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All of us –everyone in every family—have the right to healthy air.”