The American Lung Association (ALA) released the 2014 rankings for the cities with the highest and lowest amount of air pollution. The ALA divides the tested pollution into three categories: ozone, year round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution. The Los Angeles Long Beach area ranked in the top five for all three categories with other cities in California among them.

The ALA states that more than 4 in 10 (44.8%) people in the United States reside in areas that have unhealthy levels of ozone. The heavy traffic contributions to the excess amount of ozone and pollution in the air. Traffic pollution can have negative effects on people's lungs and arteries. Two major pollutants that result from this are carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. With climate change being a hot topic, it is important to note that rising temperatures create favorable conditions for the forming
of ozone: the higher the temperatures, the more prominent the levels of ozone.

46.2 million American citizens live in areas with unhealthy levels of year round particle pollution. Long-term exposure to harmful particulates can increase the risk of hospitalization for asthma, lung damage and premature death. Fresno-Madera, CA, became the most polluted city in the country for year-round particle pollution. Overall, the ALA did see an improvement for most cities in this category.

44.1 million people in the United States live in areas with too many low quality air days. Fifty American counties experienced a high number of days with high spikes in particle pollution in the last year. These short-term spikes can last between hours to a number of days. It can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits for asthma, cardiovascular disease and premature death. Fresno-Madera, California, ranked as the most polluted for short-term particle levels.

Bangor, Maine, and Austin, Texas, ranked among the top cleanest cities in America! You can check out how the air quality is where you live by visiting http://www.stateoftheair.org .

Breathe Easy: It's Asthma Awareness Month

Asthma can affect anyone from babies to the elderly and anyone in between. 25.5 million Americans live with asthma according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). If you have had problems breathing or find yourself breathless and wheezing, you should consult your doctor about the possibility of asthma.

When an asthma attack occurs, airways constrict and fill with mucus. Poor air quality can trigger asthmatic symptoms. Different air pollutants, mold and mildew can cause difficulty breathing.

Particulate matter that consist of dust, soot, fly, ash, diesel exhaust particles, wood smoke, pollution and sulfate aerosols. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the number of hospitals due to asthma increases when the air has higher concentrations of these particles. About 81 million Americans live in areas that do not meet national standard air quality.

Mold can trigger asthmatic reactions and even infections. Although the spores that the fungus injects into the air are invisible to the naked eye, they can be inhaled and cause some problems.

Pet dander has been known to cause problems for those who suffer from asthma. These microscopic substances can stay airborne for hours or even days. Pet dander can contain allergy-causing substances. It can be found in oil glands, on the skin and in the saliva of pets.

Asthma problems can significantly decrease the quality of life for sufferers and their families. One measure that can be taken is to ensure the quality of the air that is being breathed. Simple tips such as washing bed sheets once a week at 60oC to prevent dust mites are helpful but that alone will not clean the air you breathe. Using air purifiers can help you create and maintain excellent air quality in your home. Even if you live in a smog-filled city, that can help you breathe easy.