Now everyoneís admitting it

The air is getting cleaner. Even the American Lung Association says so.

ALA found that the number of counties in which unhealthy air was recorded fell significantly for the first time in six years …

Now for the “but.”

But Janice Nolen, the group’s director of national policy, emphasized that the counties where problems persist are home to 152 million people, or 52 percent of the U.S. population. “People’s lives are shortened by months to years because of the air they’re breathing,” she said.

It’s interesting to note how news reports describe those who find fault with the ALA’s work:

Conservatives and energy-industry groups have criticized the Lung Association’s methodology, saying it’s misleading to give counties “failing” grades for air pollution that might have been recorded at just one monitoring station. “I wish they would do more informing and less scaring,” said Ben Lieberman, a senior environment and energy policy analyst at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group.

As if “advocacy” groups, “consumer rights” groups, unions, government agencies, and others that escape ideological qualifiers are not motivated by ideology. Joel Schwartz has been on this issue for a long time, and this article by him should be read along with any other news reports on this issue. For example:

ALA creates the impression that everyone living in areas that exceed EPA’s standards is suffering serious health damage or even death. In reality, EPA’s pollution standards have become so stringent that exceeding them has few implications for people’s health. … The California Air Resources Board’s Children’s Health Study followed more than 1,000 children from ages 10 to 18 during the 1990s and reported no relationship between ozone levels and lung function. The CHS also reported that asthma incidence was 30 percent lower in areas with the highest ozone levels.

Coverage improved somewhat, but bad news is still an easier sell:

This year’s most egregious entry was the Oakland Tribune’s “Air pollution still abysmal in Bay Area.” It would be hard to make a more ridiculous statement about the San Francisco Bay Area’s air quality. The entire region complies with all of EPA’s air pollution health standards and has some of the cleanest air of any large metropolitan area in the entire world.