The best and worst US cities for air quality – The Hill

Story at a glance

  • The American Lung Association (ALA) estimates that more than 137 million Americans live in places with unhealthy levels of air pollution.

  • Particulate matter and ozone pollution are the most common and dangerous air pollutants.

  • California received a failing grade for air pollution by the ALA.

More than 137 million Americans live in places with failing grades for unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to the American Lung Association (ALA).

ALA has created three separate lists highlighting the 25 worst cities for ozone pollution, short-term particle pollution, and year-round particle pollution. ALA defines fine particulate matter and ozone as the two most common and dangerous air pollutants. The federal government’s Clean Air Act has helped reduce hazardous pollutants from transportation, power plants and manufacturing, but with climate change, the ALA believes it’s becoming harder to protect human health.

Starting with ozone air pollution, a type of pollutant that makes breathing more difficult for millions of Americans, often called smog. It comes out of automobile exhaust pipes, chimneys, and other sources.

Ozone pollution, or smog, comes from cars, chimneys and other sources and makes breathing more difficult for millions of Americans. Four different California cities took the top spots in the ALA’s 25 most ozone-polluting cities:

  1. Los Angeles – Long Beach, CA – an average of about 180 bad weather days
  1. Bakersfield, CA – An average of 95 bad weather days
  1. Visalia, CA – Almost 92 bad weather days
  1. Fresno-Madeira-Hanford, CA – An average of 60 bad weather days
  1. Phoenix – Mesa, Arizona – An average of 39 bad weather days

There were also about 63.2 million people living in areas that got hot due to unhealthy spikes in particulate air pollution, which ALA defines as short-term pollution. This is a type of pollution that can kill, as peaks of particle pollution can last from hours to days. It has many adverse effects, ranging from decreased lung function to heart attacks. California once again dominated the ALA’s list of 25 cities polluted daily with particulate matter.

  1. Fresno-Madeira-Hartford, CA – An average of 51 bad weather days
  1. Bakersfield, CA – An average of 41 bad weather days
  1. Fairbanks, AK – Average of 37 bad weather days
  1. San Jose – San Francisco – Oakland, California – An average of 27 bad weather days
  1. Redding-Red Bluff, CA – An average of 24 bad weather days

There are also areas in the country that affect more than 20.9 million people where year-round levels of particle pollution are worse than the national air quality limit. Recent wildfires in the West have caused an increase in particulate pollution throughout the year. Cities with high emissions from power plants and local industrial sources also tend to have large amounts of particulate pollution throughout the year.

  1. Bakersfield, CA – An average of 17 bad weather days
  1. Visalia, CA – An average of 16 bad weather days
  1. Fresno-Madeira-Hanford, CA – An average of 16 bad weather days
  1. San Jose – San Francisco – Oakland, California – An average of 14 bad weather days
  1. Los Angeles – Long Beach, CA – An average of 14 bad weather days

Individuals can take steps to protect themselves and their families, with the ALA recommending checking daily air pollution forecasts. People can also prioritize walking and riding public transportation over petrol cars.


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Posted on April 22, 2022

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