Pollution is the introduction or presence of contaminants into the air, water, or environment causing adverse effects. Pollution can include littering, burning coal or fossil fuels, sound, and light among other things. Pollution can damage ecosystems, negatively affect trees and plants, contaminate drinking water, and make land and water unsafe and unsuitable for use.
In the United States, 64% of lakes, 44% of streams, and 30% of the bay and estuarine areas are not clean enough for fishing or swimming, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Pollution is as harmful to humans as it is to the planet, as it can cause health problems such as breathing problems, worsening of asthma, and even birth defects. Toxic pollution is among the leading risk factors for non-communicable diseases globally, according to Pure Earth. Non-communicable diseases account for about 72% of all deaths around the world, 16% of which toxic pollution is responsible for. Pollution is the predominant risk factor for non-communicable disease death in low- and middle-income countries. Pollution is responsible for about 40% of death from lung cancer, 25% of stroke deaths, 22% of all cardiovascular disease, and 53% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
As the damage from pollution has become increasingly apparent, countries around the world are looking to green alternatives to prevent further damage to the earth. Solar and wind energy, non-toxic products, and eco-friendly building materials are being employed to help preserve the planet while maintaining the things we use and need every day.
In order to determine how polluted the air is, the concentration of PM2.5 particles is evaluated. Fine particulate matter 2.5, or PM2.5 refers to tiny droplets or particles in the air that are two and one-half microns or less in width. PM2.5 is small enough to enter the bloodstream through the lungs and can lead to death. These particles come from car, truck, bus, and off-road vehicle exhausts; operations that involve the burning of fossil fuels such as heating oil, wood, or coal; or from indoor sources such as smoking tobacco, cooking, burning candles, or fireplaces.
According to the American Lung Association, the ten most polluted cities in the United States are:
- Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
- Visalia, CA
- Bakersfield, CA
- Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA
- Sacramento-Roseville, PA
- San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA
- Phoenix-Mesa, AZ
- San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
- Houston-The Woodlands, TX
- New York-Newark, NY-NJ
Los Angeles-Long Beach is the most polluted area in the United States. The high population density leads to more motor vehicles, ports, and diesel engines omitting exhaust. The frequent sunny days and low rainfall contribute to ozone formation, as well as high levels of dust and fine particles.
The annual State of the Air report from the American Lung Association also stated that air quality is showing improvement listed in all cities in the report. The report, however, states that 60 million Americans live in areas with unhealthy pollution spikes and 18 million Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of pollution year-round.