6 of Top 10 Cities With Most Air Pollution Are in California

As air pollution virtually shutters Beijing and threatens other cities in China, U.S. cities are far behind in posting such levels of dangerous air pollution. Yet, several cities in America are plagued by air pollution, with six of the top 10 in California.
The State of the Air 2015 report looks at levels of ozone and particle pollution found in official Monitoring sites across the United States in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The report uses the most current quality-assured nationwide data available for these analyses.

The report examines particle pollution (PM 2.5) in two different ways: averaged year-round (annual average) and over short-term levels (24-hour). For both ozone and short-term particle pollution, the analysis uses a weighted average number of days that recognizes places with higher levels of pollution. For the year-round particle pollution rankings, the report uses averages calculated and reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For comparison, the State of the Air 2014 report covered data from 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Based on all three measures, Fresno is among the top cities on the list, along with Bakersfield, Visalia, Modesto, Los Angeles, El Centro and San Francisco. At the other send of the spectrum, most cities are small and in sparsely populated areas:

Six cities ranked on all three lists of the cleanest cities in 2011-2013. That means they had no days in the unhealthy level for ozone or short-term particle pollution and were on the list of the cleanest
cities for year-round particle pollution. Listed alphabetically, the six cities are:

  • Bismarck, ND
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, FL
  • Elmira-Corning, NY
  • Fargo-Wahpeton, ND-MN
  • Rapid City-Spearfish, SD
  • Salinas, CA

The air pollution problem in U.S. cities will never approach China’s, but that does not mean America is without an air quality challenge.