West trumps East and Midwest! (In terms of dirty air)

America’s skies are cleaner than a few years ago, but many cities still have polluted air — and about half of Americans live in those places. That’s the upshot of a new report by the American Lung Assn. called State of the Air 2011.

The annual report states: “Unhealthy air remains a threat to the lives and health of millions of people in the United States, despite great progress. Air pollution lin­gers as a widespread and dangerous reality even as some seek to weaken the Clean Air Act, the public health law that has driven the cuts in pollution since 1970.” 

It then begins to name names, ranking major U.S. cities by their ozone and particle pollution, the latter assessed with short-term and long-term measurements.

In a not-too-surprising assessment of the western United States, the report ranks California cities as having some of the dirtiest air; the Midwest has considerably clearer skies.

And without further ado, here are the cities with the most year-round particle pollution:

-Bakersfield-Delano, Calif.

-Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, Calif.

-Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz.

-Visalia-Porterville, Calif.

-Hanford-Corcoran, Calif.

Consider this a bright spot (or not): With the exceptions of Bakersfield and Hanford, all of the cities with the most year-round particle pollution actually reduced their levels from the 2006-08 time period.

The cities with the most ozone pollution:

-Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, Calif.

-Bakersfield-Delano, Calif.

-Visalia, Porterville, Calif.

-Fresno-Madera, Calif.

-Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Yuba City, Calif.-Nev.


The cleanest cities, in terms of year-round particle pollution:

 -Cheyenne, Wyo.

-Sante Fe-Espanola, N.M.

-Tucson, Ariz.

-Great Falls, Mont.

-Honolulu, Hawaii


And the cleanest cities, in terms of ozone:

-Bismarck, N.D.

-Brownsville-Harlingen-Raymondville, Texas

-Brunswick, Ga.

-Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

-Dothan-Enterprise-Ozark, Ala.

The report lists counties too, again ranking those with the most and the least short- and long-particle pollution and ozone. Give the State of the Air search tool a shot and see what grade your city got. And perhaps that’s part of the point – to make this issue real to as many people as possible.

Because if you’re thinking that air quality is simply an aesthetic matter … Medline Plus, from the National Institutes of Health, has this to say:

“Some air pollutants are poisonous. Inhaling them can increase the chance you'll have health problems. People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from air pollution.” 


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