America’s cities with the dirtiest (and cleanest) air

(NEXSTAR) – The World Health Organization announced this week that 99% of the world’s population breathes poor air quality which, when inhaled over time, can cause cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

While cities in the developing world have the worst air quality, according to the WHO, pollution remains a problem in US cities. There are chronic sources of air pollution, such as vehicle traffic on busy highways, as well as seasonal issues, such as smoke from wildfires.

The American Lung Association monitors air pollution in US cities. His Annual Report uses data from the Environmental Protection Agency on the presence of two types of pollutants: ozone (or smog) and particles. Particulate matter has many sources, such as transportation, power plants, agriculture, fires, and industry, as well as natural sources like desert dust.

Using data from the EPA, the report ranks the most and least polluted metropolitan areas.

The cities most polluted by ozone (or smog) are:

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
  2. Bakersfield, California
  3. Visalia, California
  4. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  5. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
  6. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  7. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA
  8. Denver Aurora, Colorado
  9. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
  10. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA

The cities most polluted by particles all year round are:

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  3. Visalia, California
  4. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
  5. Medford-Grants Pass, Oregon
  6. Fairbanks, Alaska
  7. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA
  8. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
  9. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pennsylvania/Ohio/West Virginia
  10. El Centro, California

“Particles, particularly PM2.5, are capable of penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular (stroke) and respiratory impacts,” the WHO said. “There is new evidence that the particles impact other organs and also cause other diseases.”

The American Lung Association also keeps track of which cities have the least air pollution.

The ten cities with the cleanest air, without particulate pollution are:

  1. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
  2. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii
  3. Cheyenne, Wyoming
  4. Wilmington, North Carolina
  5. Casper, Wyoming
  6. St. George, Utah
  7. Bellingham, WA
  8. Elmira Corning, New York
  9. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  10. Duluth, Minnesota/Wisconsin

Many cities also scored well for smog-free air, but because they all had similar readings, the ALA did not rank them. You can see the full list of Clean Air Cities in the American Lung Association Report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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