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Best & Worst Cities for Air Pollution in the United States

Best & Worst Cities for Air Pollution in the United States

  • Ever wonder which US cities are the best (and worst) places to live for your health? The ALA's Air Pollution rankings might just help answer that question!
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Air pollution has a tremendous impact on health. Modern research is quickly elaborating on the specifics of how ozone, carbon monoxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and other particulate matter negatively impact health.

The American Lung Association’s Annual State of the Air report (R) offers a deep dive into the data regarding air quality in the United States. This 149-page report details such concerns as high-risk populations, trends in air pollutants, the current science relating to air pollution’s impact on health, and much, much more.

Annual State of Air Report

Among the many insights, this reports details which US cities represent the best and worst locations for overall air quality. In other words—which places to avoid and which cities to consider when concerned for air quality. The cities are ranked in order of the county with the worst air quality score within the metropolitan area. In other words, if a city spans 3 counties the worst score among those 3 counties was used—for both the best and worst rankings.

Cities with the Best Air Quality

Honolulu Hawaii Typer Lastovich Optimus Medica
A beach scene from Honolulu Hawaii by Tyler Lastovich

The table below shows US Cities ranked in order of annual 2.5 PM measurements. While 2.5PM is not the only measure of air pollution, it is considered a functional measure of general air pollution. In other words, if you have concerns about specific pollutants interpret these results accordingly.

Rank Score City State
1 3.5 Urban Honolulu HI
2 4.2 Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina Hi
3 4.3 Cheyenne WY
4 4.5 Wilmington NC
5 4.7 Casper WY
6 4.9 St. George UT
7 5 Bellingham WA
7 5 Elmira-Corning NY
7 5 Sioux Falls SD
10 5.3 Duluth MN-WI
11 5.5 Pueblo-Cañon City CO
11 5.5 Grand Junction CO
11 5.5 Syracuse-Auburn NY
14 5.7 Twin Falls ID
14 5.7 Colorado Springs CO
14 5.7 Grand Island NE
14 5.7 Springfield MA
14 5.7 Bismarck ND
19 6.1 Burlington-South Burlington-Barre VT
19 6.1 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville FL
21 6.3 Asheville-Marion-Brevard NC
22 6.4 Anchorage AK
22 6.4 Salinas CA
22 6.4 Charlottesville VA
22 6.4 Lynchburg VA

Cities with the Worst Air Quality

la smog air pollution optimus medica
The Los Angeles Skyline with high levels of air pollution

The cities below represent those in the US with the worst measures of annual 2.5PM air pollution. One note: the ALA’s report did not provide explicit numbers for these measurements and the figures below were estimated from visual charts.

Rank Measure* City State
1 16.4 Bakersfield CA
2 15.8 Fresno-Madera-Hanford CA
3 15.7 Visalia CA
4 14.0 Los Angeles-Long Beach CA
5 13.9 Medford-Grants Pass CA
6 13.8 Fairbanks OR
7 13.6 San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland AK
8 12.7 Phoenix-Mesa CA
9 12.4 Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton AZ
10 12.0 El Centro PA-OH-WV
11 11.8 Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville CA
12 11.7 Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor OH-KY-IN
13 11.6 Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie MI
14 10.9 Cleveland-Akron-Canton IN
15 10.8 Chicago-Naperville OH-KY-IN
15 10.8 McAllen-Edinburg IL-IN-WI
17 10.7 Philadelphia-Reading-Camden TX
18 10.6 Shreveport-Bossier City-Minden PA-NK-DE-MD
19 10.4 Eugene-Springfield LA
20 10.3 Houston-The Woodlands OR
21 10.3 Missoula RX
22 10.3 St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington MT
23 10.3 New York-Newark MO-IL
24 10.2 Sacramento-Roseville NY-NJ-CT-PA
25 10.1 Redding-Red Bluff CA

About the Data

The rankings for these cities are display ranked in measure of annual 2.5PM air pollution. This is not the only available data but serves as a representation of general year-round air pollution. That is—a functional measure of what one could expect on any given day. Other measures in the report included ozone and 24-hour particulate matter.