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New report may not leave Birmingham residents breathing easy

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Birmingham’s air is being ranked as having some of the most polluted in America. The American Lung Association release is out with its annual “State of the Air” reports this week. It says Birmingham is thirty fifth nationwide for the worst ozone pollution and numb er twenty six for worst long-term particle pollution. Those are pollutants that can cause heart and lung disease. Ashley Lyerly is with the American Lung Association. She says forty percent of Americans are exposed to unhealthy air.

“I think we need to continue to implement the Clean Air Act, and continue to put individual policies in place as well as carpooling and those sorts of things that we can do as a county, as a city, as a state to continue to improve our air,” said Lyerly.

Ozone forms when airborne chemicals released by tailpipes and smokestacks react with sunlight. Particle pollution is made of tiny bits of material such as metal, dirt and smoke. Lyerly says health risks from air pollution can affect the whole body.

“Breathing these small particles into your lungs can cause asthma attacks, can cause lung cancer, can put you at higher risk for heart attacks and stroke, can damage lung tissue and airways; the list can go on. So certainly we encourage as the Lung Association for folks to be aware of the particles in the air and especially on high-alert days.”

The annual “State of the Air” provides a report card on ozone and particle pollution, also called soot. The report analyzes particle pollution through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer, asthma, and dementia.

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