Arizona’s Dirty Secret – It’s Air
According to the American Lung Association, the Phoenix area is ranked #3 in the nation for “The Most Polluted Cities” list (2011) for year-round particle pollution. Coming in #4 was Los Angeles. I find it amazing a city which is famous for its pollution has slightly cleaner air than Phoenix. We got a big, fat “F” from the American Lung Association for air quality.
What Is Particle Pollution?
The EPA defines particle pollution as “a mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets suspended in air. This pollution, also known as particulate matter, is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, soil or dust particles, and allergens (such as fragments of pollen or mold spores)”. Sounds nasty, right? Besides the unsightly brown cloud that hovers over Phoenix, it is also bad for your health. The ever-present particle pollution in Phoenix can cause respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
With the health hazards in the air, I find it surprising people choose to retire here.
What Else Is In The Air?
Besides the basic particle pollution, there are other dangers floating around in the air we breathe here.
- Arsenic – Basically it’s a poison and it accounts for 1.8% of the air we breathe in Phoenix.
- Benzene – Benzene causes cancer and is a “notorious cause” of bone marrow failure. It accounts for .020% of the air we breathe in Phoenix.
- Carbon Tetrachloride – This also causes cancer, as well as liver disease. Thank goodness it only accounts for .002% of the air we breathe in Phoenix.
- Lead – Long-term exposure to lead can cause nephropathy, and colic-like abdominal pains. The effects of lead are the same whether it enters the body through breathing or swallowing. Lead accounts for 1.080% of the air we breathe in Phoenix.
- Mercury– Yes, another poison that accounts for 0.080% of the air we breathe in Phoenix.
Is It Really THAT Polluted All The Time In Phoenix??
Well, check out this chart. Out of 366 days measuring air quality in Phoenix, there were only 70 days of good air quality and 84 days of unhealthy air quality. If your health is sensitive to air quality, one-third of your year will be spent in misery with 100 days of poor air quality for these poor souls.
“The Phoenix, AZ air quality index is a median value which considers the most hazardous air pollutants. The Phoenix, AZ air quality index is 56.9% greater than the Arizona average and 172.9% greater than the national average.”
It’s very depressing to go outside in the morning to be welcomed by a brown cloud hovering over us. We are surrounded by mountains, which leaves no escape for the pollution. You would think a storm blowing through would clear it up, but it actually makes it worse. The dirt here is the same consistency as talcum powder, and any wind makes visibility low and breathing difficult.
I enjoy running for exercise, and I can literally feel the difference when the air quality is poor. It’s almost as if I’m at a higher altitude and I am not getting as much oxygen as normal. I’m a healthy adult male, I can only imagine how the elderly deal with it.
The Phoenix area continues to grow, more people move in and the pollution continually gets worse. I’ve been here 11 years (too long), and I’ve seen it get worse while living here.
Congratulations, Los Angeles, you’re not the dirtiest city anymore.
Be sure to read more about another Arizona air pollutant, Valley Fever.