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The 25 Most Polluted Regions in the United States

"Dirty air threatens the lives and health of far too many Americans," said John L. Kirkwood, president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association. He said this in response to the American Lung Association State of the Air Report, which found that more than 152 million Americans live in counties where they are exposed to levels of air pollution that could harm their health.

Air Pollution's Dangerous Side Effects

Air pollution is unsightly, it smells bad and, worst of all, it is dangerous.

Air Pollution: Who's Most at Risk?

The American Lung Association says the following groups are at a high risk of being harmed by air pollution:

  • Adults age 65 and older

  • Children under 18

  • Adults or children with asthma

  • People with chronic bronchitis or emphysema (also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD)

  • People with any other chronic lung disease

  • People with heart disease

  • People with diabetes

"Evidence is mounting each year underscoring just how dangerous air pollution really is," said Norman H. Edelman, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. "The more we learn, the more critical cleaning up the air becomes."

There are two major types of air pollution. Particle pollution is the kind that comes from diesel exhaust fumes, power plant and factory smoke and soot from wood burning. It has been linked to increases in heart attacks and strokes, lung cancer and asthma attacks.

Ozone pollution, the other major type (also known as smog), is caused by the same pollutants as particle pollution. As ozone levels increase, so does the risk of premature death, according to the American Lung Association. And, as ozone is an extremely reactive gas, it:

  • Irritates the respiratory system

  • Can kill people with emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other severe respiratory problems

  • Causes shortness of breath and coughing

  • Triggers asthma attacks

"Exposure to ozone is like getting a sunburn on your lungs," Kirkwood said.

Most Polluted U.S. Regions

Close to half of the U.S. population, or 49 percent, lives in areas with unhealthful levels of ozone, says the American Lung Association. And, one in five of us live in areas that have unhealthy levels of particle pollution year-round.

What are the most-polluted regions of all? The American Lung Association has compiled the list for 2005:

The 25 Most Ozone-Polluted Regions

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-
    Riverside, CA
  2. Bakersfield, CA
  3. Fresno-Madera, CA
  4. Visalia-Porterville, CA
  5. Merced, CA
  6. Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX
  7. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-
    Truckee, CA-NV
  8. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
  9. New York-Newark-Bridgeport,
  10. Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland,
  11. Washington-Baltimore-Northern
    Virginia, DC-MD-VA-WV
  12. Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury, NC-SC
  13. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
  14. Cleveland-Akron-Elyria, OH
  15. Knoxville-Sevierville-La Follette, TN
  16. Modesto, CA
  17. Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
  18. Youngstown-Warren-East
    Liverpool, OH-PA
  19. Columbus-Marion-Chillicothe, OH
  20. Detroit-Warren-Flint, MI
  21. Buffalo-Niagara-Cattaraugus, NY
  22. Sheboygan, WI
  23. Chicago-Naperville-Michigan
    City, IL-IN-WI
  24. El Centro, CA
  25. Lancaster, PA

The 25 Regions Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-
    Riverside, CA
  2. Bakersfield, CA
  3. Visalia-Porterville, CA
  4. Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
  5. Fresno-Madera, CA
  6. Detroit-Warren-Flint, MI
  7. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
  8. Cleveland-Akron-Elyria, OH
  9. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville, GA
  10. Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH
  11. Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington,
  12. New York-Newark-Bridgeport,
  13. Chicago-Naperville-Michigan
    City, IL-IN-WI
  14. St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, MO-IL
  15. Canton-Massillon, OH
  16. Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, AL
  17. Charleston, WV
  18. York-Hanover-Gettysburg, PA
  19. Merced, CA
  20. Lancaster, PA
  21. Louisville-Elizabethtown-Scottsburg,
  22. Indianapolis-Anderson-Columbus, IN
  23. Columbus-Marion-Chillicothe, OH
  24. Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, DC-MD-VA-WV
  25. Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH

Need a Breath of Fresh Air?

The following 25 regions were ranked the cleanest for year-round particle pollution by the American Lung Association:

The 25 Regions Least Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution

  1. Cheyenne, WY
  2. Santa Fe-Espanola, NM
  3. Honolulu, HI
  4. Great Falls, MT
  5. Anchorage, AK
  6. Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, WA
  7. Farmington, NM
  8. Tucson, AZ
  9. Bismarck, ND
  10. Bellingham, WA
  11. Rapid City, SD
  12. Grand Junction, CO
  13. Colorado Springs, CO
  14. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL
  15. Fort Collins-Loveland, CO
  16. Fargo-Wahpeton, ND-MN
  17. Pueblo, CO
  18. Albany-Corvallis-Lebanon, OR
  19. Duluth, MN-WI
  20. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
  21. Port St. Lucie-Fort Pierce, FL
  22. Reno-Sparks, NV
  23. Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, FL
  24. Redding, CA
  25. El Centro, CA

How to Keep Healthy in an Air-Polluted World

How's your air? Enter your zip code and the American Lung Association will tell you.

If moving to one of the clean-air cities above isn't an option, there are strategies you can use to keep your air (and lungs) as clean as possible.

  1. Keep Dirt and Dust Out of Your Home. A few high-quality mats designed to properly absorb dirt, like the Waterhog Grand Premier Mats, placed strategically around your home (such as in doorways and other highly trafficked areas), will go a long way toward reducing the amount of dirt and dust in your home in the first place. Once inside, that dirt gets circulated into the air, and you breathe it in.

    You can also keep house dust to a minimum by using the right cleaning tools. The PerfectClean line of mops, dusters, towels and more, which are used by leading hospitals and other health care organizations are ideal for this. Rather than just pushing dust around, or worse, stirring it up into the air, PerfectClean products are made with positively charged ultramicrofibers that pick up everything in their path--including dust and all of its microscopic attachments.

    The Secret Key to Keeping Your
    Indoor Air Clean?

    Waterhog Grand Premier Mats and Rugs

    Every step you take into your home presents an opportunity for dirt and toxins to get in and circulate in your air. That's why The Waterhog Grand Premier Mats and Rugs, placed strategically around your home at entranceways and highly trafficked areas, are essential to keeping your home air clean!

    These premier decorative mats and rugs:

    • Keep Dirt and Liquids Beneath Shoe Level

    • Dry Very Fast and Resist Corrosion

    • Won't Slip

    • Last Much Longer Than Other Mats

    • Are Simple to Clean

    • Are Attractive and Affordable

    • Can be used Indoors or Outdoors

    • Come in a Variety of Colors & Sizes

    Learn Why You Should Avoid Other Mats, Why The Waterhog Grand Premier Mats are Superior!

  2. Filter your home's air. Many airborne pollutants can be removed by doing so.

  3. Avoid high levels of smog and pollution. These are typically highest during the midday and afternoon. If you're in a high-risk group, don't go outside when ozone levels are high.

  4. Exercise when the air is cleaner. When we exercise (or work strenuously), we draw air more deeply into our lungs, and therefore risk more damage from air pollution. To protect yourself and get the numerous health benefits of exercise, avoid exercising near congested streets and during rush-hour traffic, and try to work out early in the morning or evening instead.

Recommended Reading

Exposure to Air Pollution Linked to Genetic Abnormalities

Air Pollution Increases Your Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke and More


American Lung Association State of the Air 2005

American Lung Association Press Release

Air Pollution and Exercise

CNN: Lung Association Ranks Most Polluted Cities

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