10 Most Polluted Cities in the U.S.

By Brian Merchant, TreeHugger

There’s a pretty good chance you live in a city with air that’s so polluted it’s often unhealthy to breathe. Yes, you. Forty-one percent of Americans do. That’s 127 million people. That’s way too many.

The American Lung Association just released its annual ‘State of the Air’ report, which breaks down the most polluted cities in the nation. As usual, most of them can be found in California’s Central Valley. Here are the three different ‘top ten’ lists, according to the different kinds of pollution:

Cities with the Most Year-Round Particulate Pollution
#1: Bakersfield-Delano, CA
#2: Hanford-Corcoran, CA
#3: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
#4: Visalia-Porterville, CA
#5: Fresno-Madera, CA
#6: Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
#7: Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ
#8: Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington, OH-KY-IN
#9: Louisville-Jefferson County-Elizabethtown-Scottsburg, KY-IN
#10: Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland, PA-NJ-DE-MD
#10 (It’s a tie!): St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, MO-IL

Next: Cities with the most short-term particulate pollution & ozone pollution

Cities with the Most Short-Term Particulate Pollution
#1: Bakersfield-Delano, CA
#2: Fresno-Madera, CA
#3: Hanford-Corcoran, CA
#4: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
#5: Modesto, CA
#6: Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
#7: Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield, UT
#8: Logan, UT-ID
#9: Fairbanks, AK
#10: Merced, CA

Cities with the Most Ozone Pollution
#1: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
#2: Visalia-Porterville, CA
#3: Bakersfield-Delano, CA
#4: Fresno-Madera, CA
#5: Hanford-Corcoran, CA
#6: Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Yuba City, CA-NV
#7: San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA
#8: Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX
#9: San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA
#10: Merced, CA

Hey, strong showing in all three by Bakersfield, L.A., and Hanford-Corcoran—nice work fellas; way to hustle.

If you’re looking for a silver lining in a report as inherently depressing as this one, at least there’s this: 22 of the 25 most polluted cities showed signs of improvement from last year’s report. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need tough air quality standards and plans to reduce traffic congestion—they work!—and we need them to keep getting stricter and more progressive, until 41 percent of the country isn’t breathing polluted air.


Jo S.
Jo S3 years ago

Thank you Samantha.

Jo Recovering
Jo S3 years ago

Thanks Samantha.

ERIKA SOMLAI5 years ago

thank you

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 5 years ago

Just imagine living in China!!!

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper5 years ago


Nikhil D
Nikhil Dutta5 years ago

Glad that I dont live in any of them, but I have been to number 3 and 6. Also number 10 is my homestate.

Noreen Niamath
Noreen Niamath5 years ago

I am surprised that Houston is not in the top 10

Joe R.
Joe R6 years ago

California is not looking very good.

Romon A.
Past Member 6 years ago

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Annemarie W.
Annemarie L6 years ago