We often talk about certain cities in China or India where the quality of air is so poor that it affects people’s health and makes life living hell. Unfortunately, there are quite a few cities in the United States as well where pollution levels are too often dangerous for the local population. More precisely, more than 40 percent of Americans live in such areas.
This is according to State of Air 2015, a report compiled by the American Lung Association. This is the latest report of its kind and it involved 220 metro areas around the country. The report worked with the data provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, more precisely their 2011, 2012 and 2013 numbers.
The study looked at the levels of ozone found in these metro areas, as well as the daily and annual particle pollution data, as reported by the EPA. They included these in a formula that resulted in a list of metro areas ranked according to the levels of air pollution.
As you might have expected, the metro area that ranked the highest (or lowest, depending on how you look at it) was Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA. This metro area ranked 1st for high ozone days and 5th in both the 24-hour and annual particle pollution. There are a few factors that contributed to this. For one, there is the fact that it is one of the largest and most populated metro areas in the country and also one with the highest number of vehicles on the roads. Another huge reason is the geography and the climate which make things even worse.
The second most populated metro area in the U.S. is the Visalia-Porterville-Hanford metro area, also in California. The remaining three metro areas in Top 5 are also in California – Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera and Sacramento-Roseville.
The sixth most polluted metro area is Houston-The Woodlands, TX; the seventh Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK; the eight Modesto-Merced, CA; the ninth Las Vegas-Henderson, NV-AZ and the tenth Phoenix-Mesa—Scottsdale, AZ.
The New York-Newark metro area finished just outside of top 10, at #11. Chicago-Naperville metro area ended up at #19 while the Pittsburg-New Castle-Weirton metro area landed at spot #21.
Perhaps the most unfortunate detail about all of this is that there is not that much that can or will be done about this in any kind of foreseeable future. Some improvements can be made, but in most cases, the factors that cannot be affected are the major contributors, such as geography and climate.