As more people are vaccinated and start to put the pandemic behind them, life gets a little more normal. Restaurants reopen, people get together with a few friends and Los Angeles’ notorious air quality gets back to its nasty self. As far as ozone pollution goes, L.A. and surrounding counties lead the nation, says a new study.

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This year’s installation of the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report gave Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties an F in particle and ozone pollution. But Angelenos have plenty of company. More than 40% of Americans reside in places with unhealthy air, according to the study.

Related: Wildfire smoke is more harmful than car exhaust emissions

“There’s a wide range of health impacts,” said Will Barrett, the senior director of Clean Air Advocacy for the Lung Association, as reported by ABC7. “Those can range from minor irritations and coughing and wheezing to asthma attacks. There’s also heart issues, heart attacks and strokes. Breathing particle pollution can even cause lung cancer and both ozone and particle pollution can contribute to premature death.”

Believe it or not, when the Lung Association started publishing its State of the Air report 21 years ago, L.A.’s air quality was even worse. “We know we have some of the worst air quality in the country,” said Sarah Rees, a deputy executive officer for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “But we know we’ve also made tremendous progress over the years as well.”

The climate crisis makes matters worse, as Southern Californians face hotter days and increased wildfires, multiplying ozone woes. Then there are the transportation emissions. Forty percent of U.S. imports arrive through Los Angeles ports. The goods are then moved out by truck and rail. “We know we need to cut down on the combustion of fossil fuels in the transportation sector,” said Barrett, “really speed the transition to zero emission technologies and not just for passenger vehicles, but medium and heavy duty vehicles as well as port equipment.”

Via ABC7

Lead image via Steinphoto