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Air and Water Quality

Air Pollution

Air pollution is associated with heart and lung problems and even premature death. Large pollutant particles in the air can cause irritation and discomfort, while small, fine pollutants from sources such as auto exhaust or power plant emissions can penetrate deeply into lung tissue and enter the bloodstream.
Findings
Nationally, the average exposure of the general public to particulate matter 2.5 microns or less, measured in micrograms per cubic meter, decreased 1% from 8.4 to 8.3 between 2015-2017 and 2018-2020, and 37% from 13.2 in 2000-2002, when America’s Health Rankings began tracking the measure.
Air pollution decreased 10% or more in 12 states, led by 26% in Hawaii (5.8 to 4.3), 23% in Maine (6.5 to 5.0) and 19% in both Maryland (8.3 to 6.7) and Montana (6.8 to 5.5) between 2015-2017 and 2018-2020. Over the same period, air pollution increased 10% or more in four states: 19% in Oregon (7.7 to 9.2), 17% in Massachusetts (6.0 to 7.0), 12% in California (11.9 to 13.3) and 10% in Kansas (6.9 to 7.6).
Disparities
In 2018-2020, air pollution was highest in California (13.3), Illinois (9.6) and Nevada (9.3); it was lowest in Wyoming (4.2), both Hawaii and New Hampshire (4.3) and North Dakota (4.8).

Housing and Transit

Severe Housing Problems

Poor quality housing can cause disease and injury and negatively affect childhood development. Other housing-related factors such as neighborhood environment and overcrowding can affect mental and physical health as well. Families with high housing-related costs may have difficulty affording other basic needs such as health care, food and heat.
Findings
Severe housing problems is the 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. Nationally, this percentage decreased 8% from 18.9% to 17.3% between 2009-2013 and 2014-2018.
Severe housing problems significantly decreased in 39 states, led by 16% in both Michigan (16.9% to 14.2%) and Nevada (22.1% to 18.5%) and 15% in Utah (15.9% to 13.5%) between 2009-2013 and 2014-2018.
Between 2009-2013 and 2014-2018, severe housing problems decreased across all racial and ethnic groups, dropping 13% among Hispanic households (33.4% to 29.2%); 9% among both Black (27.4% to 24.9%) and white (14.5% to 13.2%) households; 8% among Asian/Pacific Islander households (24.4% to 22.5%); and 6% among American Indian/Alaska Native households (25.3% to 23.7%).
Disparities
In 2014-2018, severe housing problems were highest in Hawaii (26.4%), California (26.2%) and New York (23.3%); they were lowest in West Virginia (11.1%), North Dakota (11.6%) and both Iowa and South Dakota (11.8%).
In 2014-2018, severe housing problems varied by race and ethnicity and were disproportionately higher among Hispanic, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native and Asian/Pacific Islander households than among white households.

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