Air Pollution Risks Down, But Still Unacceptably High in Some Areas

Residents nationwide are at increased risks of developing cancer according to just-released Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, the Associated Press reported. About 600 neighborhoods in this country have measured with high concentrations of <"">toxic air pollutants, said the AP.

The UPI reported that the analysis was the largest ever of its kind and the AP reported that 80 cancer-causing substances were found to be released by automobiles, factories, as well as trucks, buses, and construction equipment said News Blaze. According to USA Today, the analysis is based on 2002 emissions, which is the most recent year for which the EPA has data on air pollution in this country.

USA Today explained that the study—called the National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment (NATA)—is used by the EPA to locate where in the country residents could face significant risks from air pollution. The tool, said News Blaze, is a “state-of-the-science” tool that estimates health risks caused by breathing air toxics.

The UPI and USA Today both reported that NATA found air pollution was especially risky in and near major cities. For instance, while 2.2 million people live in neighborhoods where pollution levels increased cancer risks to unacceptable levels, 847,000 of these people lived in and around New York City, said UPI and USA Today. Also, in an area between two California freeways, in Cerritos, California, which is near Los Angeles, the estimated risk for developing cancer is an astounding 1,200 in one million, which is 34 times the national average and represents the worst neighborhood for such pollutants and cancer risks in the United States.

Some counties in rural areas of Mississippi and Kentucky had very high air pollution levels, said USA Today and UPI. According to USA Today, overall, New York, Oregon, and California showed the highest risks for developing cancer due to breathing toxics. Two communities in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and one in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama also rated very high, said the AP. The areas with the lowest cancer risks due to air toxics included neighborhoods in Coconino County, Arizona and Lyon County in Nevada, said the AP; Kalawao County, Hawaii and Golden Valley County, Montana measured with the least toxic air.

Although toxic air emissions have decreased by an estimated 40 percent since 1990 with the implementation of the Clear Air Act Amendments, the report found nearly 200 air toxics, including “diesel particulate” from stationary and mobile sources, and benzene, said News Blaze were found. No small issue since air toxics are known or believed to cause cancer, birth defects, and other significant health issues, said News Blaze. Benzene, noted News Blaze represented the greatest contributor.

The 2002 NATA estimates found that most Americans have an average cancer risk of 36 in 1 million when exposed similar levels of toxins over their lifetimes, explained the media sources. Two million people, or less than one percent of the population, have greater risks—100 in one million. This means, said the AP, that if one million people breathed air with similar concentrations over a lifetime, 100 more people would likely develop cancer due to pollution exposure.

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