Do You Live in One of America’s Worst Cities for Air Pollution?

The American Lung Association has released its annual “State of the Air” report and its findings are troubling. Most Americans live in counties with air pollution so bad that it is a severe risk to their health. According to the report, that means 166 million people are at risk of an early death and significant health problems including asthma, developmental damage and cancer.

Without a doubt the most concerning discovery made by the American Lung Association was that short-term particle pollution had increased sharply since last year’s report: “Short-term spikes” of particle pollution hit record levels in seven of the 25 most polluted U.S. cities in this period.

Short-term particle pollution refers to a particular type of pollutant that is not regularly airborne; spikes tend to coincide with weather patterns. What’s more, it is without a doubt an apparent shift toward more frequent droughts, lower rainfalls, increasing heat and more frequent wildfires can be linked directly to climate disruption.

According to the American Lung Association, these are the top U.S. cities affected most by short-term particle pollution:

1. Bakersfield, Calif.
2. Fresno-Madera, Calif.
3. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
4. Modesto-Merced, Calif.
5. Fairbanks, Ala.
6. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
7. Logan, Utah
8. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
9. Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
10. Missoula, Mont.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. The report says 16 cities boasted record low for year-round particle pollution levels. As the term implies, this measures the average particle pollution over the span of a year.

Below are the top 10 U.S. cities for year-round particle pollution:

1. Bakersfield, Calif.
2. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
3. Fresno-Madera, Calif.
4. Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
5. El Centro, Calif.
6. / 7. Tied: Modesto-Merced, Calif. and San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
8. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton region of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia
9. Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, Pa.
10. Louisville-Jefferson, Ky.

Ozone pollution, the third major measure of air pollution, is also in decline. Six cities had their lowest days of ozone pollution on record and more than a dozen others saw notable improvements.

These are the worst cities in the U.S. for ozone pollution:

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

While it may sound tempting to chalk this up as a two-for-three victory, over 52 percent of Americans are still living and breathing air that is shortening their lifespans and giving them serious illnesses. Almost 20 million people reside in areas that are, by all three measures, hazardous. So what can be done?

As the American Lung Association’s report explains, coal-fired power plants are among the chief sources of polluting, lung-invading air particles. Not only that, the carbon emissions from burning coal have been firmly linked to climate disruption.

The use of coal combustion is gradually shrinking around the world, but it is still common in much of the U.S. It might make sense for new policy to be put in place to lead the U.S. away from perpetual coal use, right?

That’s precisely what the Environmental Protection Agency attempted to do in the form of the Clean Power Plan. When the final draft of the Plan was announced last year it marked a milestone moment — it was the first time a nationwide limit on how much CO2 coal-fired power plants could emit was defined by the federal government.

This move was, unsurprisingly, met with a great deal of hostility. Twenty-seven states swiftly filed legal action against the EPA to have the Clean Power Plan halted; in February the U.S. Supreme Court granted this request.

Curiously, many states that are home to the cities that made the American Lung Association’s report are part of this legal action, including Montana, Utah, Alabama, Ketucky, Indiana, Arizona and Colorado.

That isn’t a coincidence, of course — these lawsuits are undeniably meant to protect the interests of the fossil fuel sector, an industry that increasingly finds itself struggling desperately to remain more relevant than the very products they burn for power.

This is reflected in opinion polls showing an overwhelming share of Americans — 63 percent — support the enforcement of strict limits on CO2 from existing coal plants. State by state, the majority of residents in all but three states involved in anti-CPP litigation also support such restrictions. Even Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper believes the CPP should be seen through.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has already placed a stay on the Clean Power Plan; any forward movement will be unlikely until either Congress takes action or, possibly, the open seat on the Court bench is filled. If you believe it is Congress’ duty to make sure the Clean Power Plan is enacted and enforced, please consider signing our petition!

Concerned about an issue? Want to raise awareness about an injustice? Join your fellow Care2 users by learning how to make your own petition and have your voice heard today!


Photo Credit: Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons


william Miller
william Miller1 years ago


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

Interesting that most of them are in very liberal states.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Marie W.
Marie W1 years ago

Pollution just one issue.

Peggy B.
Peggy B1 years ago

I don't

Randy Q.
Past Member 1 years ago


Cela V.
Cela V1 years ago


Cela V.
Cela V1 years ago


Ricky T.
Ricky T1 years ago

Not surprised at LA, you can see the toxic fog hovering above the city...everybody drives too damn much! City of angels it is not!

Neville B.
Neville B1 years ago

No. Hooray! Still, there's always something else wherever you are...

Dear Patricia Harris, well said!

Dear Barbara S., hang in there; the truth will out - not all scientists work for corporations.