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 Area Total Population Pediatric Asthma Adult Asthma CV Disease
1 Bakersfield, CA 874,589 22,811 47,274 39,611
2 Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA 608,467 16,490 32,302 27,286
3 Fresno-Madera, CA 1,120,522 28,482 61,434 54,190
4 Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA 18,550,288 391,452 1,093,121 981,745
5 El Centro, CA 179,091 4,527 9,863 8,897
6 Modesto-Merced, CA 798,350 19,952 44,214 39,399
6 San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA 8,607,423 166,204 523,893 488,003
8 Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA–OH–WV 2,653,781 55,262 210,546 218,588
9 Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, PA 1,239,677 29,398 95,249 94,211
10 Louisville/Jefferson County-Elizabethtown-Madison, KY–IN 1,498,593 35,700 134,900 132,990
11 Cleveland-Akron-Canton, OH 3,497,851 79,634 296,253 285,478
12 Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA–NJ–DE–MD 7,164,790 164,662 520,226 491,940
13 Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, IN 2,353,935 46,418 190,921 157,184
14 Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville, OH–KY–IN 2,208,450 55,681 186,179 168,576
14 Altoona, PA 125,955 2,803 9,732 10,387
16 Houston-The Woodlands, TX 6,686,318 126,257 322,667 362,663
16 San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA 279,083 4,486 17,852 18,081
16 Lancaster, PA 533,320 13,929 39,794 39,175
16 Johnstown-Somerset, PA 213,950 4,396 16,796 18,455
20 Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, MI 5,315,251 123,521 448,280 401,894
21 Erie-Meadville, PA 365,618 8,598 28,186 27,596
22 Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL 1,317,269 40,271 96,700 119,939
23 Little Rock-North Little Rock, AR 902,443 19,823 60,518 83,498
23 Fairbanks, AK 99,357 2,205 5,999 3,875
23 Wheeling, WV–OH 145,205 2,779 12,814 15,016

Visit stateoftheair.org for more information.

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