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Air pollution and severe housing problems improved, but COVID-19 is expected to impact severe housing problems.

Air pollution

Definition: Average exposure of the general public to particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less measured in micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3).
Air pollution is associated with heart and lung problems and premature death in those with heart or lung disease according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Annually, an estimated 200,000 premature deaths occur in the United States from combustion emissions alone. According to the CDC, small, fine pollutant particles from sources such as automobile exhaust or power plants can penetrate deeply into lung tissue and enter the bloodstream. Exposure to fine particle air pollution is linked to problems with respiratory and cardiovascular functions according to the CDC.
Between 2007-2009 and 2017-2019, air pollution declined 27% from 11.4 to 8.3 μg/m3, and 3% since 2014-2016 (Figure 16). West Virginia (12.8 to 7.4 μg/m3) and Georgia (12.9 to 7.9) had the largest declines in the last decade.

In 2017-2019, air pollution was highest in California (12.6 μg/m3), Illinois (9.5) and Pennsylvania (8.8). It was lowest in New Hampshire (4.1), Wyoming (4.5) as well as Hawaii and Vermont (both 4.8).

Severe housing problems

Definition: Percentage of occupied housing units with at least one of the following problems: lack of complete kitchen facilities, lack of plumbing facilities, overcrowding or severely cost-burdened occupants.
Housing influences health and well-being. According to Healthy People, poor quality housing can cause disease and injury as well as affect development in children, while other housing-related factors such as neighborhood environment and overcrowding can affect mental and physical health.
Between 2008-2012 and 2013-2017, severe housing problems decreased 8% nationally from 19.0% to 17.5% of occupied housing units (Figure 17). Over the same period, the percentage of severe housing problems declined significantly in 36 states, led by Nevada (17% from 22.6% to 18.8%) and Utah (15% from 16.0% to 13.6%) (Figure 18).

Severe housing problems vary across states and by race and ethnicity. In 2013-2017, severe housing problems were highest in Hawaii (26.7%), California (26.4%) and New York (23.5%), and lowest in West Virginia (11.2%) and North Dakota (11.6%). During this time, Hispanic households had the highest percentage, followed by Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander and white households (Figure 19).

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