The American Lung Association today released the annual State of the Air report, finding that 52.1 percent of Americans live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution, the two most widespread pollutants in the United States. Alabama’s most populated county, Jefferson, has improved from previous year’s rankings, but still an “F” grade.

RELATED: Read Gasp’s press statement on the 2016 State of the Air Report

The Birmingham-metro area received its best rankings ever in the report for both ozone and particle pollution. Birmingham ranked 22nd in year-round particle pollution and did not crack the top 25 for ozone days or short-term particle pollution this year.

Ground-level ozone is formed when emissions from factories, power plants, and vehicles react to sunlight. Ozone season in Alabama is from May–October.

Ground-level ozone is formed when emissions from factories, power plants, and vehicles react to sunlight.

Ozone is a gas molecule made up of three oxygen atoms. Ground-level ozone pollution is created when nitrogen oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions react to sunlight. Sources of NOx and VOCs include cars, power plants, factories, and wood-burning stoves, among other sources. Ozone season in Alabama is from May–October.

Particle pollution is composed of tiny liquid and solid particles from various sources.

Particle pollution, or particulate matter, is a mixture of microscopic solid and liquid particles. These tiny particles come from numerous sources (a truck’s exhaust, a factory’s smokestack, etc.) and are extremely dangerous to your health. They are so small that they can get lodged in your lungs or make their way into your bloodstream.

Both ozone and particle pollution are linked to serious health risks. Extensive research has found links to increased risks of:

  • asthma attacks
  • heart attacks
  • cancers
  • coughing, wheezing and other breathing issues
  • hospitalizations related to respiratory, cardiovascular, immune and neurological diseases
  • reproductive health issues
  • lower birth weight and/or pre-term birth
  • premature death

People at Risk In 25 US Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution

No.Metropolitan AreaTotal PopulationPediatric AsthmaAdult AsthmaCV Disease
1Bakersfield, CA874,58922,81147,27439,611
2Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA608,46716,49032,30227,286
3Fresno-Madera, CA1,120,52228,48261,43454,190
4Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA18,550,288391,4521,093,121981,745
5El Centro, CA179,0914,5279,8638,897
6Modesto-Merced, CA798,35019,95244,21439,399
6San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA8,607,423166,204523,893488,003
8Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA–OH–WV2,653,78155,262210,546218,588
9Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, PA1,239,67729,39895,24994,211
10Louisville/Jefferson County-Elizabethtown-Madison, KY–IN1,498,59335,700134,900132,990
11Cleveland-Akron-Canton, OH3,497,85179,634296,253285,478
12Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA–NJ–DE–MD7,164,790164,662520,226491,940
13Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, IN2,353,93546,418190,921157,184
14Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville, OH–KY–IN2,208,45055,681186,179168,576
14Altoona, PA125,9552,8039,73210,387
16Houston-The Woodlands, TX6,686,318126,257322,667362,663
16San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA279,0834,48617,85218,081
16Lancaster, PA533,32013,92939,79439,175
16Johnstown-Somerset, PA213,9504,39616,79618,455
20Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, MI5,315,251123,521448,280401,894
21Erie-Meadville, PA365,6188,59828,18627,596
22Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL1,317,26940,27196,700119,939
23Little Rock-North Little Rock, AR902,44319,82360,51883,498
23Fairbanks, AK99,3572,2055,9993,875
23Wheeling, WV–OH145,2052,77912,81415,016

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Report air pollution here or by calling (205) 938-4277.

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