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Breathe deep

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By Staff Editorial

Through a haze (Kathryn Shepherd / Staff Photographer)

By Staff Editorial

TV and movies often depict the Earth headed for a terrible future where the environement has collapsed and become unliveable.

For Riverside and San Bernardino County residents that future may not be too far fetched.

According to the American Lung Association, 48 percent of Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of smog pollution.

Of the large metropolitan areas throughout America, or those with populations of over 1 million people, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties suffered from the worst degree of smog pollution in 2010 making them the worst in the United States.

“Too many people, on too many days in Riverside County, are breathing air that is too dirty,” said Colleen Callahan, a Los Angeles-based program manager for the American Lung Association.

Riverside-San Bernardino had 41 more days with exceptionally terrible air than its neighbor, Los Angeles, the metropolitan area ranking second place.  

To put it into perspective, California on a whole was by far the smoggiest state in the U.S. as the list not only included two of the state’s largest districts, but the San Luis Obispo-Atascadero-Paso Robles area as well, and that is just disappointing.

The ridiculous thing about air pollution is it’s not a problem that no one knows the solution to.

Everyone knows how to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the solutions are too expensive or inconvenient. But at a certain point, don’t the effects of the damage outweigh the  discomfort of walking or using public transportation instead of driving?

While carpooling has become more popular in recent years, it might be time to take a more aggressive approach to solve the problem.

Though many laws have been passed to protect the environment, enforcing them seems to be a constant disappointment.

If a big corporation can break environmental laws and make billions, but is only fined a few hundred thousand dollars, that doesn’t help anyone.

There is still much work that needs to be done, despite the policies passed on the state and federal level that have vastly improved the air quality in the past decade.

However, millions of Americans continue to breathe unhealthy air, as evident from the figures listed above.

Worst of all, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties top that list.

The American Lung Association flunked Riverside County on air pollution standards in its annual State of the Air report by giving it an F, the lowest possible grade an area can achieve.

Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said figures cited in the association’s report serve as a valid reflection of air quality in both the state and the country.

“The Lung Association report just confirms the very serious public health threat we do face from air pollution,” he said. “Riverside County has some of the worst air quality in the nation.”

Studies from the American Lung Association show that on days with high concentrations of pollution in the air, both adults and children suffer from asthma attacks, respiratory difficulties, and a reduction in lung function. Increased exposure to poor air quality can also worsen any pre-existing respiratory illnesses and even result in premature death.

Poor air quality has always been treated as one of the trade offs for living in Southern California, like earthquakes, wildfires and mudslides. However, when a problem continues to cause numerous health concerns and harms its population, how long will it take that population to take charge and solve a fixable problem?

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