If you’re like the majority of Americans, what you breathe could kill you. According to a the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air Report, “six out of ten Americans–186.1 million people — live in areas where air pollution levels endanger lives.”

Are you part of the unlucky majority? Find out at stateoftheair.com, which lets you quickly check out how your county’s doing. So you know, my county — Los Angeles — got a big fat F! In fact, the L.A.-Long Beach-Riverside Counties area gets first place for ozone pollution, third for year-round particle pollution, and fourth for short-term particle pollution.

That news is perhaps unsurprising, considering the fact that L.A.’s even got a new book dedicated to its dirty air called Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. That said, American Lung Association says the air in pretty much every major city’s very polluted — and getting dirtier to boot, despite some local efforts to clean up the air.

The pollution also tends to be worse in areas where low-income people and some racial and ethnic groups live, making clean air a social justice issue too. In fact, USC Center for Sustainable Cities recently released a study looking more closely at environmental justice issues. Titled Justice in the Air: Tracking Toxic Pollution from America’s Industries and Companies to Our States, Cities, and Neighborhoods (PDF), the report ranks cities, states, and companies that are failing to protect the socially disadvantaged from dirty air.

Check that report too to see if your city makes the list of “Ten Worst for Protecting Minorities” or “Ten Worst for Protecting the Poor.” I’m proud to say that L.A. isn’t on either of those lists; perhaps our air’s so unclean that wealth can’t protect anyone from its polluting effects.

What can you do? American Lung Association’s recommends simple actions many MNN readers are already taking: “drive less; don’t burn wood or trash; use less electricity; and make sure local school systems require clean school buses.”

When breathing's bad for you
6 in 10 Americans live in areas where air pollution levels endanger lives, according to the American Lung Association.