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Kansas City ranks high for pollution in American Lung Association's State of the Air report

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Posted at 6:43 PM, Apr 24, 2024

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The American Lung Association’s State of the Air report shows that air quality is the poorest it has been in the last 25 years.

One hundred and thirty-one million Americans are living in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution — that is nearly 40 percent of the population.

According to that same report, Kansas City ranks 20th out of all the cities in the U.S. when it comes to year-round particle pollution.

“Particle pollution is those really, really tiny — they’re like 1/30th of a human hair," said Sara Perm with American Lung Association Kansas. “And if you’re someone who has asthma, or COPD, or lung cancer, those are particularly dangerous to you.”

In addition to pre-existing health conditions, people who live in poverty and people of color are more susceptible to pollution.

Kansas City struggles especially, because it is a major transportation hub.

“Kansas City does have our climate action resiliency plan,” Prem said. “You can monitor your own contributions to air pollution — electric vehicles for example.”

Perm says climate change and short-term events like West Coast wild fires contribute to pollution as well.

Susan Meister and Gail Naidl are sisters. They grew up in Kansas City for many years, playing outside and frolicking through the woods. But they say it was a different time.

“You see so many children now with asthma that you didn’t see in my time growing up,” Meister said. “It was great coming to Loose Park yesterday and today, and seeing a lot of kids running around. But you don’t see that as much as you used to, and I think it’s because parents are worried about air quality.”

Both of them moved to the countryside.

“Sometimes it’s funny — you think you have a big health issue and then you move and it’s like, it’s just where I was living,” Meister said.

With children and grand kids still living in Kansas City, the sisters are worried about the future with no clean solutions.

“I feel a lot of guilt not doing more for the environment, but I don’t know what to do really about it,” Naidl said. “You know, with the oceans rising and the forest fires and the air pollution, yeah it’s gonna be tough for these kids.”