The 10 Worst Cities in the U.S. for Asthma

By Ramon Gonzalez, TreeHugger

On World Asthma Day, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America named Memphis, Tennessee the new Asthma Capital of the U.S. According to the AAFA, more than 300 million people worldwide are living with asthma and nearly 25 million of them live here in the U.S.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine describes asthma as a disorder that causes the airways of lungs to swell and narrow, leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.

Top Asthma Capitals for 2012

To create their top 10 cities list for 2012, researchers looked at 12 sets of data for the 100 largest U.S. cities. The cities were ranked based on factors like air pollution, ozone days, pollen counts, medication use, poverty rates and public smoking laws.

1. Memphis, TN
2. New Haven, CT
3. Knoxville, TN
4. Pittsburgh, PA
5. Chattanooga, TN
6. Hartford, CT
7. St. Louis, MO
8. Oklahoma City, OK
9. McAllen, TX
10. Allentown, PA

Next: What should you do if you live in an asthma capital? Where does your city rank?

If you live in one of these cities, should you pack your bags and move? Since all cities have a variety of risk factors of asthma, the AAFA recommends working with an asthma specialist to improve your overall asthma management plan.

Stephen Ashkin, who is known as the “father of Green Cleaning” in the professional cleaning industry, points out that many conventional cleaning chemicals can trigger asthma attacks among school children.

“This is why so many schools were early pioneers in [adopting] Green Cleaning products and practices,” says Ashkin, in a statement released by The Ashkin Group on this year’s asthma rankings.

“And [asthma] is still the most common health reason for repeated absences from schools,” adds Ashkin, “which tells me we still have a ways to go in cleaning and maintaining our schools in a healthier, more environmentally preferable manner.”

If your child’s school hasn’t switched to using green cleaning products, work with fellow parents to lobby the school to make changes. While you wait: here are 10 recommendations for eco-friendly all-purpose cleaners for a toxic chemical-free home.

My civic pride always takes a blow whenever Chicago makes it onto a list we can’t brag about. So it is important to point out that the Asthma Capitals list is intended to raise awareness about asthma and, hopefully, inspire us to advocate for improvements in our cities. To see the how your city ranked see the detailed rankings for 100 metro areas in the U.S.

Is your city an asthma capital, clean and free, or somewhere in between? Tell us in the comments!


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Peggy A.
Peggy A4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Aud Nordby
Aud nordby4 years ago


Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton5 years ago

Thanks for the info.

A N M.
anne M5 years ago

Oh well, not much one can do about it, I suppose. If you have asthma, you might try not to live there. I suffer from severe allergies in certain places and simply try to avoid them. That's all I can do.

Ajla C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Nije samo zagađenje problem,ima dsota toga još.

Lynn L.
Lynn L5 years ago

I & a few of my co-workers have asthma. We exposed to a daily chemical assault of people spraying heavy perfumes & using cleaning agents . We have explained this to management & healthy co-workers to no avail. Emails are sent out saying " don't do this" , but when it happens management does nothing to address the problem. They don't want to understand once these irritants are inhaled it places the body in a weakened condition & can take hours/days to recover. At best this is bullying & abuse. Some of them think it's funny when we can't breathe. The maturity level we deal with is deplorable. If I could afford to quit, I would . BTW we are a Fortune 11 company.

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

yikes. glad I am not near any of those.

Dale Overall

Margaret D., yes smoking can most definitely trigger health problems via second hand smoke, especially in enclosed spaces. Being outdoors and exposed to smoke can certainly create havoc for others as smoke clings, permeates and is otherwise invasive.

Ontario has even passed a law where it is illegal to smoke if you are in a car with children under 16. Countless studies have proven that second hand smoke is detrimental and public places are often full of those with asthma problems triggered by smoke. While I don't have asthma several people I know do.

Interesting article!

Barbara Mann
Barb Mann5 years ago

Ouch! Too close for comfort! =(