U.S. air quality slips after decades of improvement.

June 30, 2019

After decades of improvement, America’s air may not be getting any cleaner according to a June 18, 2019 Associated Press report carried by the New York Times.

Over the last two years the nation had more polluted air days than just a few years earlier, federal data shows. While it remains unclear whether this is the beginning of a trend, health experts say it’s troubling to see air quality progress stagnate.

CLICK HERE to view EPA interactive air quality map.

There were 15% more days with unhealthy air in America both last year and the year before than there were on average from 2013 through 2016, the four years when America had its fewest number of those days since at least 1980.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed just the opposite, saying earlier this month in Ireland: “We have the cleanest air in the world, in the United States, and it’s gotten better since I’m president.”

That’s not quite the case. There were noticeably more polluted air days each year in the president’s first two years in office than any of the four years before, according to new Environmental Protection Agency data analyzed by The Associated Press. “What you’re seeing is a flattening off of progress as opposed to a major change in the wrong direction,” said former deputy EPA administrator Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Scientists say that it is too early to see the effects of changes in environmental policy of the Trump administration, which took office in January 2017. But they say looser restrictions and lax enforcement would almost certainly reverse the gains that have been made in recent decades, potentially turning what has so far been a modest, two-year backslide into a dangerous trend.

Five hundred and thirty-two American metro areas reported a total of 4,134 days in 2018 when the official air quality index passed 100, which means it is unhealthy for people with heart and lung disease, the elderly and the very young. That’s about 15% more bad air days per city than the average for 2013 to 2016, America’s clean air heyday.

The worst of the bad air days jumped even more. On average, in 2017 and 2018 there were nearly 140 times when a city’s air pollution reached the worst two categories — “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” — with the air quality index greater than 200. That’s more than two-and-a-half times the average of nearly 55 from 2013 to 2016.

What this means to you
An Associated Press analysis of recent EPA data shows there were 15% more days with unhealthy air in America both last year and the year before than there were on average from 2013 through 2016.

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