25 Most Polluted Cities In America

25 Most Polluted Cities In America

polluted city air


Air pollution is a grave problem in America. A “State of the Air” report is generate annually. This is an assessment of the current pollution levels which are gathered from monitoring of air quality by federal, tribal, state and county agencies. The data is collected from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, specifically from their Air Quality System database. Data is gathered from select monitoring sites. The methodology includes a collection of ozone concentrations and quality over a three-year period, short-term particle pollution data analysis and an Air quality index assigning pollution levels in accordance with parts per billion and an average for specified days. Grades are assigned over a 24 hour period and this is used to determine pollution levels when the factors are weighted numerically, then multiplied with the total number of days in each category, and finally summed up for the annual total over a three-year period.

This is how the county grades for air quality with regard to ozone levels. The measurements are used to determine the health risk for populations living in each respective county or metropolitan area monitored. Air quality is determined by Ozone, year round pollution and short-term particle pollution. With this in mind, here are the 25 most polluted cities in the United States.

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towers putting smoke in the air

Medford-Grants Pass, OR

This area is 25th for 24 hour particle pollution out of a list of 220 metro areas. It is number one for the cleanest metro area for Ozone and #37 for annual particle pollution. Since 1997, this city has had 2.3 less days of pollution. Efforts to curb carbon emissions are proving to be effective in decreasing the number of days with short-term particle pollution per year.

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smoke billowing into the air

Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, IN

The Indianapolis-Carmel metropolitan area is tied for 23rd place for having the highest 24 hour particle pollution. It ranks 61 for high ozone days and 17th for annual particle pollution. There are 11.3 fewer days of pollution this year as compared with 2000. This shows that the nationwide initiatives to curb carbon emissions is having a high rate of effectiveness.

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pipe blowing smoke

Boise City-Mountain Home-Ontario, ID-OR

Boise City/Mountain Home/Ontario, ID-Oregon are tied for 23rd place in the most polluted cities in America listing. These areas ranked 23 for 24 hour (short-term)particle pollution, 132 for high ozone days and number 40 for annual particle pollution. Trends show that this region has experienced 3.7 fewer days of high particle pollution, moving to an improvement in air quality.

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Amtrak in Philadephia

Philadelphia, PA

This metropolitan area is tied for 22nd place in the most polluted cities in the US. They rank 22 for high 24 hour particle pollution, 28 for high ozone days and 11 for annual particle pollution. The data shows a decrease of short-term particle pollution of 13.7 days annually.

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car pollution the air

Lancaster, PA

Lancaster, PA ranked 20th for high short-term particle pollution, 41st for high ozone days and 16th for annual particle pollution. Monitoring results show that Lancaster has experienced an average decrease of 26 fewer high short-term particle pollution days annually. The improvement is due to initiatives geared towards decreasing carbon emissions.

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dirty air pollution
Eugene, OR

Eugene, OR is the 20th most polluted city in America for 24 hour particle pollution. The annual particle pollution ranking is 103rd and impressively, it comes in as number one out of the 220 metropolitan areas monitored as the cleanest city for Ozone in the country. Eugene’s short-term particle pollution score has decreased by 2.3 days over the monitoring period showing some improvement.

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car tail pipe blowing smoke

Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, PA

The Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, PA metro areas rank 19 in the most polluted metro areas for short-term particle pollution. They rank 12th for annual particle pollution and number 64 for high ozone days. This region has seen a decrease of 11 short-term particle pollution days in the monitoring period.

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World Climate Change Protest

Seattle-Tacoma, WA

The Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area comes in 18th for the most polluted cities with regard to short-term particle. It ranks 63rd for annual particle pollution and 151 for high ozone days. The area has seen an average decrease of 6.6 short-term particle pollution days in the monitoring period.

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area in texas damaged by storm

El Paso-Las Cruces, TX-NM

El-Paso-Las Cruces, TX-NM are tied for 17th place for most polluted cities in the US. The area ranks 23rd for annual particle pollution and 47th in high ozone days for the monitoring period. The good news is that this region is beginning to clean up the air quality with a decrease of 8 days for short-term particle pollution days.

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view of new york city

New York-Newark, NY-NJ

The Newark, New York metropolitan areas are ranked number 15 for 24 hour particle pollution days. The regions place 14 for annual particle pollution and number 11 for high ozone days. This area is subject to environmental pollutants from high carbon emissions, but efforts are being made to reduce these harmful toxins through vehicle emissions modifications, hybrid vehicles, LED lighting solutions and regulations governing factory pollutants. These cities have experienced 16 fewer high short-term pollution days in the monitoring period.

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steam rising into the air

Reno, NV

The short-term particle pollution affecting air quality in these areas places these cities at number 15 for most polluted cities in America. They come in at 150 for annual particle pollution and high ozone day ranking is 132. The short-term particle issue is not decreasing as rapidly as in most other cities being monitored. 1.4 fewer days were noted in the monitoring period which shows a decrease, but not significant.

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California state capitol

Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento are is ranked at number 14 for short-term particle pollution. The air quality for the region placed 5th for high ozone days and ranked 53rd for annual particle pollution. This area has shown a significant improvement for fewer short-term particle days with a decrease of 29.3 days over the monitoring period. This shows the effectiveness of the efforts used to cut down on emissions and environmental pollutants.

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man walking in polluted air

Yakima, WA

Yakima, WA, located in the central part of Washington State is a metropolitan area that is surrounded by farmland on all sides. The cattle industry is also prolific. This city is ranked at number 13 for short-term particle pollution. It is in 103rd place for annual particle pollution and the number of high ozone days has not been monitored. Yakima’s air quality issue in on the increase with an additional 3.8 high 24 hour particle days for this monitoring period.

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traffic in phoenix AZ

Phoenix, AZ

This metropolitan area in Arizona comes in at number 12 for the 24 hour particle pollution. It is ranked at number 10 for high ozone days and comes in 27th place for annual particle pollution. This region has shown the most significant improvement in short-term particle pollution with a reduction of 40.8 days for high level measurements during this monitoring period.

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car polluting the air

Missoula, MT

Missoula has earned a tie for the number one ranking for cleanest metro areas for Ozone in the country. It comes in at 11th place for 24 hour particle pollution and at number 37 for annual particle pollution. There has been no change upwards or downwards in the short-term particle pollution for the monitoring period.

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view of pittsburgh pa

Pittsburgh, PA

This metro region ranks number 10 for the most polluted city with regard to short-term particle pollution days. It is in 21st place for high ozone days and ranks number 9 for annual particle pollution. There has been a significant decrease of 27.7 24 hour particle pollution days in the monitoring period. This shows a measure of success in decreasing health risks to the population from air pollution.

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beautiful afternoon sky

Fairbanks, AK

Fairbanks is ranked as 9th of the most polluted metro areas in America because of its high 24 hour particle pollution days. It has seen an increase of 7.8 days of short-term particle levels being over the acceptable levels during the monitoring period. It does receive high marks with a tie for being the number 1 cleanest metro areas for ozone in the country. It is at 31st for the annual particle pollution of the 220 cities monitored.

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cars stuck in traffic

Logan, UT

Logan, UT-ID is the 8th most polluted city in the United States for 24 hour particle pollution. It comes in at 78th for annual particle pollution. It is ranked at number one for the cleanest metro area with regard to high ozone days. This region has seen no changes upwards or downwards during the monitoring period.

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view of salt lake city, us

Salt Lake City-Provo, UT

The Salt Lake City/Provo/Orem metro areas are ranked at 7th place for 24 hour particle pollution. It comes in at 42nd out of 220 for high ozone days and at 71st place for annual particle pollution. The efforts being made to reduce emissions have resulted in a decrease of 9 short-term particle pollution days over the monitoring period.

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San Francisco Skyline

San Jose-San Francisco, CA

This area is ranked at number 6 for the most 24 hour particle pollution days . It places 36th for high ozone days and number 7 for annual particle pollution. The good news is that the region has seen a decrease in high ozone level days of 12.4 days during the monitoring period.

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smog in los angeles

Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA

The LA/Long Beach area is currently ranked at number 5 for the most polluted cities in America. The 24 hour particle pollution days are the reason for this rating, however; It has seen the most significant decrease of all cities listed with 73.3 fewer short-term particle pollution days over the monitoring period. It is ranked number one for high ozone days and 5th for annual particle pollution. This region has significantly high pollution number for all three of the air quality domains monitored.

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plastic bottle litter

Modesto-Merced, CA

The Modesto-Merced region is ranked 4th for short-term particle pollution days. The news here is bad, but it gets worse. The area has seen an increase of 20.7 more 24 hour particle pollution days in the monitoring period. It is also rated as 8th for high ozone days and comes in at number 4 for annual particle pollution.

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

garbage truck in street

Visalia, CA

This metropolitan area is the 3rd most polluted city in America for 24 hour particle pollution out of 220 monitored areas. It is ranked at 2nd for high ozone days and places 3rd for annual particle pollution. During the monitoring period, this region has increased the number of short-term particle pollution days by 15.5.

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beautiful california sunset

Bakersfield, CA

Bakersfield, California is the second most polluted city in the United States for short-term particle pollution days. It is also second for annual particle pollution and ranks third for high ozone days. The bad news is that it a city with one of the worst air quality ratings, but there is a silver lining. The monitoring period has shown 35 less 24 hour particle pollution days; 71.1 fewer high ozone days and a decrease in annual particle pollution over the monitoring period.

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Overnight Frost Creates Winter Landscape

Fresno-Madera, CA

The Fresno-Madera, California metropolitan region is the number one most polluted city in America. It has sthe highest 24 our particle pollution days incidences as well as 1st place for annual particle pollution. It is in 4th place for high ozone days. The population of this city is at the greatest risk for becoming ill because of poor air quality. We are seeing some positive changes occurring because of the measures taken to decrease carbon emissions. There have been 63.3 less high ozone days and 24.2 short term particle pollution days in addition to a decrease in the levels of annual particle pollution over the monitoring period.

These are the 25 most polluted cities in America. The three measures of air quality used to rank the health hazards include ozone levels, short term or 24 hour particle counts and annual particle levels. While some cities are continuing to increase pollution levels and decreased air quality, the majority on this list are making steady progress towards cleaning up their environments. Decreasing carbon emissions from gas and diesel-powered automobiles, implementing cleaner energy options and using better waste management systems are all factors which contribute to the quality of air in metropolitan areas. While the statistics show that most metro areas are making progress towards cleaning up their environments, there is still a long way to go to make our cities safe for the inhabitants.

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