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15 American Cities with the Worst Air Pollution

Los Angeles- Long Beach, CA

It's gorgeous and sunny, but Los Angeles-Long Beach is ranked #1 out of 228 metro areas in high ozone days and #4 for annual particle pollution out of 171 metro areas by the ALA. For anyone living in LA, this should come as no surprise, as smog alerts are still a pretty common occurence in everyday life. It's so bad there that experts estimate around 1300 residents die of air pollution-related conditions each year. This is one city where air quality is literally life or death. That being said, there is some indication that LA's smog problem is moving in the right direction—it's no longer the hazy, cloudy city that it was in the 1990s. But there is still a long ways to go before things really improve. 

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Bakersfield, CA

With more annual particulate pollution than LA, Bakersfield is ranked #1 out of 171 metro areas by the ALA. It is also ranked #2 in high ozone days by the same association.

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Visalia - Porterville - Hanford, CA

This area located north of Bakersfield has a #2 ranking for annual particle pollution out of 171 metro areas and a #3 ranking in high ozone days out of 228 metro areas from the ALA.

Fresno- Madera, CA

With agriculture as the largest industry, you may not expect this area to have a #3 ranking in annual particle pollution and a #4 ranking in high ozone days. 

Phoenix - Mesa - Scottsdale, AZ

This area fares better than the top four in annual particle pollution coming in at #26 of 228 metropolitan areas, but it ranks #5 of 171 metro areas in high ozone days.

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San Jose - San Fransisco - Oakland, CA

Perhaps some of that silicon was released into the air near Silicon Valley. This area is ranked #6 of 171 metro areas for annual particle pollution by the ALA.

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Sacramento- Roseville, CA

Detrimental ozone created by reactions between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the presence of light is often present in these cities that rank #6 of 171 metro areas in high ozone days.
 

Modesto - Merced, CA

The Modesto-Merced area gets the double whammy of annual particle pollution and high ozone days ranking #7 out of 171 and 228 metro areas respectively by the American Lung Association.

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Pittsburgh, PA - New Castle, OH - Weirton, WV

Polluted air is no respecter of state lines as evidenced by this area that spans three states and ranks #8 of 171 metropolitan areas in annual particle pollution as determined by the ALA.

Denver - Aurora, CO

Given its elevation, it's not surprising that Denver would appear as the #8 city for high ozone days because more ozone is produced at higher altitudes.

Harrisburg - York - Lebanon, PA

This important freight center linking the markets of the East, Midwest, and South was ranked #9 for annual particle pollution out of 171 metropolitan areas by the American Lung Association.

Las Vegas - Henderson, NV

Did you know ozone has a smell? Most of us call it the smell of rain. It doesn't rain much in Vegas, but the ALA says it's still #9 for high ozone days.

Fort Collins, CO

This idyllic town nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains ranks #10 of 228 metropolitan areas in high ozone days per year according to the American Lung Association.

Louisville - Jefferson County - Elizabethtown - Madison, KY-IN

While this area spanning two states ranks #10 for annual particle pollution out of 171 metro areas, it fares much better in ozone pollution coming in at #41 on ALA's list.

Dallas- Fort Worth, TX

The American Lung Association ranks the 9th largest city in the US #11 for high ozone days and #33 in annual particle pollution.