California's Central Valley retains its title as home to the worst air in America, according to the American Lung Association's "State of the Air" assessment for 2013 — but, like other cities and counties, has still shown improvement in air quality.
For 13 years, the Lung Association has been compiling data on two types of air pollution in cities and counties across the country. Particulate pollution, measured over the short-term and year-round, is comprised of exactly what you might think: small particles of soot and dust that float through the air and which when inhaled can lead to breathing difficulties or even heart attacks. Ozone pollution, a key component of smog, can similarly cause respiratory damage and premature death. The report summarizes the risks Americans face from existing levels of air pollution:
- More than 4 in 10 people (42%) in the United States live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution.
- Nearly 4 in 10 people in the United States (38%) live in areas with unhealthful levels of ozone.
- Fifteen percent (15%) of people in the United States live in an area with too many days of unhealthful levels of particle pollution.
- Over 44.3 million people (14%) in the United States live in an area with unhealthful year-round levels of particle pollution.
So how risky is your area? The State of the Air website allows you to search for your city or county and see its assigned grade. But we've gone ahead and plotted the counties identified in the report as the best and worst for pollution.
Best and worst areas for particulate pollution
The worst cities in America unsurprisingly correlate to the worst counties. The top ten worst metropolitan areas for short-term particle pollution:
- Bakersfield-Delano, CA
- Fresno-Madera, CA
- Hanford-Corcoran, CA
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
- Modesto, CA
- Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield, UT
- Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
- Merced, CA
- Fairbanks, AK
- Logan, UT-ID