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GOP Trying to Weaken Clean Air Laws While Half of All Americans Still Breathe Polluted Air

The threats to the Clean Air Act are coming from the Republican side of Congress, in bills to strip the U.S. EPA of funding and curtail its powers to regulate air emissions.

WASHINGTON, DC, April 27, 2011 (ENS) -  The United States has made progress in cleaning up air pollution, but 154.5 million people, about half the population, live where the air is so polluted with smog and particles that it is often dangerous to breathe, the American Lung Association said today.

In its annual report on air quality, State of the Air 2011, the American Lung Association says that the Clean Air Act is working and warns against legislators who are trying to weaken the law.

"State of the Air tells us that the progress the nation has made cleaning up coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions and other pollution sources has drastically cut dangerous pollution from the air we breathe," said Charles Connor, American Lung Association president and chief executive.

"We owe our cleaner air to the Clean Air Act," Connor said. "We have proof that cleaning up pollution results in healthier air to breathe. That's why we cannot stop now. Half of our nation is still breathing dangerously polluted air. Everyone must be protected from air pollution."

The threats to the Clean Air Act are coming from the Republican, not the Democratic, side of Congress, in bills to strip the U.S. EPA of funding and curtail its powers to regulate air emissions.

Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said, "During the recent budget debate, the American Lung Association and other leading public health organizations joined me in successfully defeating GOP efforts to repeal Clean Air Act safeguards, and we must continue to fight to protect our landmark environmental laws."

"The Clean Air Act has been one of most successful and effective environmental laws ever enacted in this country," said Boxer. "This report shows significant progress has been made, but it also indicates that more work needs to be done to protect the health and safety of children and families."

The State of the Air 2011 report grades cities and counties based on the color-coded Air Quality Index developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help alert the public to daily unhealthy air conditions.

The report uses the most recent EPA data collected from 2007 through 2009 from official monitors for ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread types of air pollution.

Counties are graded for ozone, or smog, the most widespread air pollutant. They are also graded for year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels.

All metro areas in the list of the 25 cities most polluted by ozone showed improvement over the previous report, and 15 of those cities experienced the best year yet.

All but two of the 25 cities most polluted with year-round particle pollution improved over last year's report.

But only 11 cities among those most polluted by short-term spikes in particle pollution experienced improvement.

The report identified Honolulu, Hawaii and Santa Fe-Espanola, New Mexico as the cleanest cities - the only two cities in the nation that were among the cleanest for year-round particle pollution and also had no days when ozone and daily particle pollution levels reached unhealthy ranges.

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, California remains the metropolitan area with the worst ozone problem, although great improvements have been made since the report was first issued 12 years ago. In fact, eight of the 10 most ozone-polluted cities are in California, the report shows.

Nearly half the people in the United States, 48.2 percent, live in counties that received an "F" for air quality due to unhealthy ozone levels, finds the report.

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