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Top 10 Dirtiest U.S. Cities

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In the America Lung Association State of the Air Report 2010, American cities were ranked according to ozone levels, as well as short-term and year round particle pollution levels. The cities are ranked by the air quality in the most polluted county in the metropolitan area. Here are the ten cities with the highest levels of ozone, number 1 being the worst–with any other rankings they scored for particle pollution.

1o. Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury, NC-SC

9. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA

8. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA
Ranked 17th for short-term particle pollution.

7. Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX
Ranked 16th for year round particle pollution.

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

135 comments

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9:30PM PDT on Sep 8, 2013

sad moving the the 4th most dirtiest city in the US...oh well

4:36AM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

Interesting, thought it would be different.

8:41PM PDT on Apr 29, 2011

And Bill M. is exactly right! Too many cars, poor city planning (suburban sprawl) and poor public transportation are ruining air quality, wasting millions of hours of people's time in interstate gridlock, and uglifying the areas surrounding cities. In America, where the population is nothing compared with places like China, much of this is preventable-- get out of the cars, give people public transport, and stop building all over the place-- concentrate it and make things walkable-- there's a novel idea.

8:38PM PDT on Apr 29, 2011

Gosh, California, that's too bad. Sadly, even these cities would be clean in comparison to many many places in other countries. I don't even want to look at the list of dirtiest cities in China...just remembering them makes me start coughing. :-(

3:00PM PDT on Oct 13, 2010

Sad that the majority of these are in Cali!

11:09AM PDT on Oct 11, 2010

Yep, I knew Houston was there

12:29PM PDT on Oct 8, 2010

thank you

5:15PM PDT on Oct 6, 2010

Thrilled NYC didn't make the list.

8:39AM PDT on Oct 6, 2010

This happens when you have too many cars, low suburban development density, and not enough transportation alternatives. The irony is that although individual cars produce less pollution than four dedcades ago the increase in the number of vehicles and number of vehicles per capita more than offset improvements in technology.

10:28PM PDT on Oct 5, 2010

I lived in California, I definitely agree. The pollution and air quality are very bad.

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