Many Americans Breathing Cleaner Air: Report

But some cities continue to have dangerously high levels of ozone and soot

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Both ozone and particle pollution can affect respiratory health, worsening breathing and increasing the risk of asthma attacks, respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

"People thought problems were limited to the lungs, but over the past 15 years quite a bit of work has shown things like cardiovascular effects," Hertz-Picciotto said. Studies have found links between high levels of ozone and soot and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, as well as lower birth weights and increased risk of infant mortality.

Air quality can have the biggest effect on vulnerable groups of people, including young children, older adults and people with weak immune systems, Hertz-Picciotto said.

More information

You can find information about AIRNow and your local air quality and air pollution in general at the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

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