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Environmental Quality

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Explore the latest data and disparities for each indicator.

Download the latest EH-1 and TU-11.1 data in spreadsheet format [XLSX 20 KB]

Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

The Air Quality Index (AQI), which reports daily air quality from a value of 0 to 500, considers values greater than 100 to indicate unhealthy levels of air pollution. Between 2006–2008 and 2014–2016, potential exposure to unhealthy air quality (measured as the number of AQI-weighted people days) decreased 49%, from 8.488 to 4.327 billion, exceeding the HP2020 target.i However, air quality, as measured by AQI, is highly dependent on local, seasonal, and annual variation in weather.

Between 2005–2008 and 2011–2014, exposure to secondhand smoke among children aged 3–11 years decreased 24.7%, from 52.2% to 39.3%, exceeding the HP2020 target. In 2011–2014, several groups of children in specific demographic categories had the lowest rates of secondhand smoke exposure, including Hispanic children, those born outside the U.S., those with private health insurance, and those in families with incomes at 500% or more of the poverty threshold.

Considering the full age spectrum of non-smokers, children aged 3–11 years had higher secondhand smoke exposure (39.3%) than adolescents aged 12–17 years (31.7%) or adults aged 18 years and over (22.1%) in 2011–2014.

Air Quality Index (AQI) exceeding 100 (EH-1)

  • Healthy People 2020 objective EH-1 tracks the Air Quality Index (AQI), which reports daily air quality from a value of 0 to 500 and considers values greater than 100 to indicate unhealthy levels of air pollution.
    • HP2020 Baselinei: In 2006–2008, there were 8.488 billion AQI-weighted people days when the AQI exceeded 100.
    • HP2020 Targeti: 7.638 billion AQI-weighted people days, a 10% improvement over the baseline.
    • Between 2006–2008 and 2014–2016, the number of AQI-weighted people days decreased 49%, from 8.488 billion to 4.327 billion, exceeding the HP2020 target.

Exposure to Unhealthy Outdoor Air

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Data source: Air Quality System (AQS), EPA.

Endnotes:

  • The baseline, trend data, and target for this objective were revised in 2018. Data prepared for this LHI report may be different from what are currently shown in other sections of the Healthy People 2020 website. In 2017 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented changes in National Ambient Air Quality Standards that lowered the cut-points for Ozone from 0.085 ppm to 0.070 ppm averaged over an 8-hour period; and the cut-point for Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 microns and smaller was reduced from 40.5 micrograms/m3 to 35.5 micrograms/m3. EH-1 values have also increased due to a population base based on the 2010 Census rather than the 2000 Census. Finally, the network of monitors for PM2.5 has increased in both number and quality due to newer continuous monitors being added to the monitoring network. Previously, PM monitors were only sampled every 3rd day.
  • Populations living in areas with unhealthy air are weighted (multiplied) by the number of AQI days, and the severity of AQI days.
  • The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a tool to let the public know how clean or polluted their air is and what associated health effects might be a concern. The AQI is a numerical scale ranging from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. AQI values below 100 are generally thought of as satisfactory. When AQI values are above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy—at first for certain sensitive groups of people, then for everyone as AQI values get higher. The measure focuses only on “unhealthy” air quality days (AQI values over 100) and counts each day using its actual AQI value on that day. For example, a code orange day with an AQI value of 101 is weighted by 1.01 whereas a code orange day with an AQI value of 149 is weighted by 1.49 and a code red day with an AQI value of 150 is weighted by 1.50. This method accounts for changes in the severity of the air quality levels as well as the frequency of occurrence of “unhealthy” days. The metric then weights the days with AQI values greater than 100 by the population living in the counties in which these days occur. This means those AQI days over 100 in highly populated areas will be given more weight because more people are affected. Each reported year is based on a 3-year average to account for year-to-year variability (e.g., 2008 is the average of 2006, 2007, and 2008).
  • Significance of trend was evaluated using the Mann-Kendall test.
  • Data for this objective are available annually and come from the Air Quality System (AQS), EPA.

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Children aged 311 years exposed to secondhand smoke (TU-11.1)

  • Healthy People 2020 objective TU-11.1 tracks the proportion of children aged 3–11 years exposed to secondhand smoke.
    • HP2020 Baseline: In 2005–2008, 52.2% of children aged 3–11 years were exposed to secondhand smoke.
    • HP2020 Target: 47.0%, a 10% improvement over the baseline.
    • Between 2005–2008 and 2011–2014, exposure to secondhand smoke among children aged 3­–11 years decreased 24.7%, from 52.2% to 39.3%, exceeding the HP2020 target.
  • Among racial and ethnic groups, Hispanic or Latino children aged 3–11 years had the lowest rate of exposure to secondhand smoke, 28.7% in 2011–2014. Rates for children in other racial/ethnic groups were:
    • 66.8% among the black, non-Hispanic population; more than twice the best group rate
    • 37.6% among the white, non-Hispanic population; 31.3% higher than the best group rate
  • In 2011–2014, children born outside the U.S. were less likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke than children born in the U.S. (23.9% versus 39.9%). The rate of secondhand smoke exposure for children born in the U.S. was more than 66.6% higher than the rate for children born outside the U.S.
  • Among health insurance status groups, children aged 3–11 years with private health insurance had the lowest rate of secondhand smoke exposure (23.7%) in 2011–2014. Compared to the best group rate, children with public health insurance (55.3%) had more than twice the rate of secondhand smoke exposure and children with no health insurance (42.5%) had a 79.1% higher rate.
  • Among family income groups, children aged 3–11 years in families with incomes at 500% or more of the poverty threshold had the lowest rate of secondhand smoke exposure (10.2%) in 2011–2014. Rates for children in other income groups were:
    • 60.3% among those in families with incomes below the poverty threshold; more than 5.5 times the best group rate
    • 44.1% among those in families with incomes at 100–199% of the poverty threshold; more than 4 times the best group rate
    • 29.4% among those in families with incomes at 200–399% of the poverty threshold; more than 2.5 times the best group rate
    • 23.4% among those in families with incomes at 400–499% of the poverty threshold; more than twice the best group rate.

Exposure to Secondhand Smoke for Children Aged 3–11 Years by Family Income, 20112014

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Data source: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CDC/NCHS.

Endnotes:

  • Unless noted otherwise, all disparities described are statistically significant at the 0.05 level of significance.
  • Unrounded values with additional decimal places beyond what are shown here are used in calculating health disparities, including identifying the best group rate and calculating the differences between group rates. Rounded values displayed here are used in calculating changes over time and percent change needed to meet the target.  
  • Data are for the proportion of non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke. Persons of all age groups shown are considered to be exposed to secondhand smoke if they have a serum cotinine level of greater than or equal to 0.05 ng/ml and less than or equal to 10 ng/ml. Children aged 3–11 years (TU-11.1) are considered to be non-smokers if they have a serum cotinine level less than or equal to 10 ng/ml. Adolescents and adults aged 12 years and over (TU-11.2 and TU-11.3) are considered to be non-smokers if they reported that they did not use any product containing nicotine in the past 5 days and if they have a serum cotinine level less than or equal to 10 ng/ml.
  • Unadjusted rates are used to make comparisons for secondhand smoke exposure by age in this report. The data used to monitor TU-11.3 are age adjusted. The age-adjusted rate of secondhand smoke exposure for adults aged 18 years and over in 2009–2012 was 25.5%, while the unadjusted rate was 24.8%. Data are age adjusted to the 2000 standard population using the age groups 18–29, 30–39, 40–49, 50–59, 60–69, 70–79, and 80 years and over. Age-adjusted rates are weighted sums of age-specific rates.
  • The terms “Hispanic or Latino” and “Hispanic” are used interchangeably in this report.
  • Data for this measure are available biennially and come from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CDC/NCHS. For this data system, 4 years of data are pooled for analysis when available.

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