Are You Breathing Dirty Air?

More than half of all Americans (52.1%) live with harmful levels of air pollution, according to the 2016 State of the Air report issued by the American Lung Association. However, the report also found that stronger standards for pollutants and for the sources of pollution have resulted in a continued reduction in ozone and particle pollution as well as other pollutants across the country.

The report notes sixteen of the most-polluted cities had their lowest level of year-round particle pollution levels in the history of this report and that the biggest improvements came from reductions inozone and year-round particle pollution. Much of this improvement can be attributed to cleaner power plants and increased use of cleaner vehicles and engines.

Despite this continued improvement in air quality, the report found that spikes in short-term particle pollution have gotten worse over the year. Many of these spikes were directly linked to weather patterns like drought or to events like wildfires, which are likely to increase because of climate change.

By OzoneBy Year Round Particle PollutionBy Short-Term Particle Pollution
1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.1. Bakersfield, Calif.1. Bakersfield, Calif.
2. Bakersfield, Calif.2. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.2. Fresno-Madera, Calif.
3. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.3. Fresno-Madera, Calif.3. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Calif.
4. Fresno-Madera, Calif.4. Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.4. Modesto-Merced, Calif.
5. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.5. El Centro, Calif.5. Fairbanks, Ala.
6. Sacramento-Roseville, Calif.6. (tied) Modesto-Merced, Calif.6. Salt lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
7. Modesto-Merced, Calif.7. (tied) San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.7. Logan, Utah-Idaho
8. Denver-Aurora, Colo.8. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pa.-Ohio-W. Va.8. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.
9. Las Vegas-Henderson, Nev.-Ariz.9. Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, Pa.9. Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.
10. Fort Collins, Colo.10. Louisville-Jefferson10. Missoula, Mont.
11. County-Elizabethtown-Madison, KY-IN

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California communities make up more than half the top ten cities with the worst air pollution. A recent report from Consumers Union found that the state’s recent efforts to expand low-carbon transportation policies will not only save residents money in the long run, but will also have a measurable impact on air quality and health outcomes. Through its Environmental Equity initiatives, the Greenlining Institute is seeking to improve environmental quality for low income communities and communities of color, while ensuring they also benefit economically from the growing clean energy economy. These efforts also complement the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution generated by power plants across the country.

Four cities were recognized as the cleanest in the United States, meaning they had no days in the unhealthy level for ozone or short-term particle pollution: (in alphabetical order) Burlington, VT; Elmira-Corning, NY; Honolulu, HI; and Salinas, CA.