The Cities With America's Worst (and Best) Air Quality

The Golden State gets far from a gold medal when it comes to air pollution, according to the State of the Air 2022 study by the American Lung Association.

California is home to 14 of the top 25 air polluted counties in America which failed across three measures of air pollution. States east of the Mississippi made big strides in recent years cleaning up their acts though.

The 23rd annual air pollution study measured what authors considered “the most dangerous and widespread air pollutants;” annual particle pollution levels, short-term (24- hour) particle pollution levels and ozone levels. 

Fresno, California had the greatest number of “unhealthy” or worse particle pollution days. Bakersfield, California tops the list for greatest annual particulate pollution levels. Los Angeles tallied up the most number of ozone polluting days. The study analyzed data from 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Much of America breathes unhealthy air

Over 137 million Americans, 40% are living in places that scored failing grades for air pollution. The study stated that 2.1 million more Americans were breathing unhealthy air over the 2021 data. Over 9 million more people suffered through daily unhealthy, even deadly, daily spikes in particle pollution over last year’s data.

The Environmental Protection Agency sets safe levels of particle and ground ozone levels and measures them daily from official recoding sites across the U.S. You can check your daily Air Quality Index from your FOX Weather city forecasts on our app. The EPA also offers daily numbers

Annual Particle Pollution

These seven cities/areas scored the worst for annual, average particle air pollution:

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Fresno-Madera-Hanford and Visalia, California (tie)
  3. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland
  4. Los Angeles–Long Beach
  5. Medford-Grants Pass, Oregon
  6. Fairbanks, Alaska
  7. Phoenix-Mesa

The study analyzed air samples from 202 metro areas and determined that 20.9 million people or 6.4% of the nation lived in areas that exceeded the national air quality limit annually. Of the 25 worst counties nationwide, 17 are in California. All 21 counties receiving a failing grade for annual particle pollution were in five western states. 

Study authors feel that the increased number, severity, and duration of recent wildfires have taken a toll on western year-round pollution.

In 2007, 21 areas across eastern and industrialized states like New Jersey, New York and Ohio were on the worst 25 list. The 2022 report only lists eight areas east of the Mississippi in the top 25 worst for annual pollution.

Cleanest air

Let’s get to the clean news — the American Lung Association ranked the cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution – here are the top 7.

  1. Cheyenne, Wyoming
  2. Wilmington, North Carolina
  3. Honolulu (urban)
  4. Kahului–Wailuku–Lahaina, Hawaii
  5. Bangor, Maine
  6. Casper, Wyoming
  7. Bellingham, Washington

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content