The Best & Worst US Cities for Air Pollution

The Best & Worst US Cities for Air Pollution

The Best & Worst US Cities for Air Pollution

Last month the American Lung Association published its”State of the Air” report.

The results were more positive than the report released in Y 2014, more than 50% of Americans continue to live in areas where they are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollutants.

The “State of the Air” reports lower levels of year-round particle and ozone pollution attributed to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Air Act.

In Y 2015 the EPA revised its standards for particle and Ozone pollution, making them stricter. However, there are experts who believe these stricter standards do not go far enough.

Below is a list some of the Top 10 areas producing the worst air pollution, as follows:

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
  2. Bakersfield, CA
  3. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA
  4. Fresno-Madera, CA
  5. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
  6. Sacramento-Roseville, CA
  7. Modesto-Merced, CA
  8. Denver-Aurora, CO
  9. Las Vegas-Henderson, NV
  10. Fort Collins, CO

Notice that 6 of the top 10 worst cities for air pollution are in California.

According to the State of the Air report: “Los Angeles remains the metropolitan area with the worst ozone pollution, as it has for all but one of the 16 reports. However, Los Angeles reported its best air quality ever in the ‘State of the Air’ report’s history, with the lowest average year-round particles and fewest high-ozone and high-particle days.

Bakersfield returned to the top of both lists for most polluted for particle pollution, thanks to worse year-round and short-term exposures.”


The Top 10 cities with the best air quality rating are, as follows:

  1. Farmington, NM
  2. Cheyenne, WY
  3. Casper, WY
  4. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI
  5. Honolulu, HI
  6. Bismarck, ND
  7. Elmira-Corning, NY
  8. Salinas, CA
  9. Redding-Red Bluff, CA
  10. Fargo, ND


The Big Q: What’s in the Air?

The Big A: The ratings were based on readings for particulate pollution and ozone in the air. Particulate pollution is also called particulate matter (PM) and is a term describing solid particles and liquid droplets.

Particles like dust, dirt, smoke or soot are large enough to be seen with the naked eye, while other particles are so small you need an electron microscope to see them.

The size of these inhalable particles is usually less than 10 micrometers. To put this in perspective, the diameter of the average hair is 70 micrometers, making your hair 30 times larger than the largest inhalable particulate.

These particles come in different sizes, shapes and sources. Primary PM can be made of hundreds of different chemicals and be from primary or secondary sources. The EPA regulates fine and coarse PM measuring less than 10 micrometers, but not larger particles, such as sand and dust.

Fine particulate matter, that is less than 2.5 micrometers, is responsible for reduced visibility. Because these molecules are so small, they can be inhaled deep into your lungs and even make it into your bloodstream.

Ozone is made up of Oxygen molecules that protect our environment when they are located in the upper atmosphere of the Earth. But, when found closer to the Earth in the air we breathe, they present a significant health risk.

This ground level Ozone isn’t discharged directly into the air, but instead is created when volatile organic compounds and Nitrous Oxide (NO2) react in the presence of Sunlight.

Emissions from automobiles and certain types of manufacturing pollution are the primary sources of the volatile organic compounds, the precursors to Ozone pollution at ground level. This Ozone is the main ingredient in “Smog” pollution in larger cities.

Although PM and the precursors to Ozone pollution are the 2 largest types of air pollution, several others are monitored by the EPA, including Sulfur Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and Lead.

On-road and off-road vehicles are the primary contributors to Carbon Monoxide emissions. Sulfur Dioxide is released with fuel combustion from electric generators and industrial and residential boilers using coal as the fuel source. Airplanes, industrial process and fuel combustion all contribute to the release of Lead-based pollution into the air.

Air quality is intricately related to our health.

Our body needs food, water and air to survive. When 1 of those necessary components is compromised, it can compromise our health.

Poor outdoor air quality has been linked to stroke, heart disease, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, such as asthma or lung cancer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that outdoor air pollution was responsible for 3.7-M premature deaths worldwide in Y 2012. Approximately 88% of those deaths were in low to middle-income countries. WHO states that air pollution is the “single biggest environmental health risk.”

You may think that you do not have too much control in reducing air pollution, there are several things we can do to impact your immediate environment, reduce exposure and change the way large industries pollute the air around us.

Each time you use the heat or air conditioning, drive your car or style your hair, we are making choices that affect the quality of the air around us and our neighbors, so:

  1. Conserve energy at home by turning off lights, computers and digital equipment when not in use.
  2. Use energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances.
  3. Limit the amount of driving by carpooling, biking or walking. Condense errands to one trip.
  4. Keep your car well maintained to reduce emissions and avoid excessive idling.
  5. Keep your tires properly inflated to use less gas.
  6. Don’t buy more cars than you need. Four-wheel drive, engine size, vehicle size and tire size all contribute to the amount of gas you burn with each trip.
  7. Convert your wood-burning fireplace to Nat Gas or Propane.
  8. Use a programmable thermostat at home.
  9. Use electric or hand-powered lawn equipment.
  10. Run home appliances, such as dishwasher, washing machine and dryer only when full.
  11. Ask your energy supplier for a home audit to learn how you can reduce your energy usage and save on your energy bill too.
  12. Use water-saving devices in your garden; collect rainwater for plants and grow low-water plants.
  13. Compost yard waste instead of burning it; eliminate burning leaves, wood and garbage.
  14. Use compost to reduce weeds and maintain moisture in your garden.
  15. Use water solvent paints.
  16. Switch to environmentally safe cleaners for your home and garage to reduce volatile organic compounds released in your home.
  17. Recycle paper, plastic, glass, cardboard and aluminum cans to conserve energy.
  18. Lower your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  19. Be an advocate for emission reductions from power plants and strict national vehicle emission standards.

Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution, and the evidence points up the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.

Do your part, our lives depend on it.

Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively,

Paul Ebeling


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