Best, worst cities for air quality: California ranks among worst, East Coast is cleaner

USA Today

Best, worst cities for air quality: California ranks among worst, East Coast is cleaner

Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY – April 22, 2022

A report released by the American Lung Association revealed millions of Americans are breathing unhealthy levels of air pollution across the country.

State of the Air 2022, based on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2018 to 2020 also revealed which cities had the best and worst air quality.

The rankings are based on three categories: ozone pollution, year-round particle pollution and short-term exposure particle pollution over 24 hours.

The report, released Thursday, listed climate-change-driven wildfires as one of the biggest contributors for the rise in air particle pollution, a factor reflected in the rankings. Western cities have been plagued by historic wildfires in recent years.

Most of the cities with the cleanest air quality were on the East Coast.

Here are are the best and worst cities for air quality, according to the American Lung Association:

Los Angeles ranked poorly in multiple categories in this year's State of the Air report.
Los Angeles ranked poorly in multiple categories in this year’s State of the Air report.

‘Very unhealthy’: US air quality remains ‘hazardous’ for millions of Americans, new report says

Worldwide: These countries have the most polluted air in the world, new report says

Worst air in the United States

It isn’t West Coast best coast when it comes to air.

California dominated the worst-air rankings, with three of the state’s cities topping each of the categories for worst air. The Los Angeles-Long Beach area had the worst air by ozone, Bakersfield had the worst year-round particle pollution, and the Fresno-Madera-Hanford area had the worst air by short-term particle pollution.

The top 10 cities in each of the three categories were in Western states; the most eastern city was Houston. Here are the worst air cities:

Worst air by ozone:

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  2. Bakersfield, California
  3. Visalia, California
  4. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  5. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
  6. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, California
  7. Denver-Aurora, Colorado
  8. Houston-The Woodlands, Texas
  9. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  10. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah

Worst year-round particle pollution:

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  3. Visalia, California
  4. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  5. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  6. Medford-Grants Pass, Oregon
  7. Fairbanks, Alaska
  8. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
  9. Chico, California
  10. El Centro, California

Short-term particle pollution:

  1. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  2. Bakersfield, California
  3. Fairbanks, Alaska
  4. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  5. Redding-Red Bluff, California
  6. Chico, California
  7. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  8. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  9. Yakima, Washington and Visalia, California
Best air in the United States

While the Pacific states had the worst air, the East Coast and some Midwest cities are breathing better.

But Cheyenne, Wyoming, is an outlier from the West. The Wyoming capital ranked first in cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution, despite being roughly 95 miles away from Denver, which had the seventh-worst ozone air pollution. Casper, Wyoming, also made the top 10.

Another exclusion from the Pacific is Hawaii. Two areas – Honolulu and the Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina region – were in the top five.

Best cities in year-round particle pollution:

  1. Cheyenne, Wyoming
  2. Wilmington, North Carolina
  3. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
  4. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii
  5. Bangor, Maine
  6. Casper, Wyoming
  7. Bellingham, Washington
  8. Bismarck, North Dakota, Elmira-Corning, New York, Sioux Falls, South Dakota and St. George, Utah

Numerous cities were tied for first in ozone air (64) and short-term particle pollution (80). Here are some of the biggest cities in each category:

Best cities for ozone air

  • Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • Eugene-Springfield, Oregon
  • Jacksonville-St. Marys-Palatka, Florida-Georgia
  • Lexington-Fayette-Richmond-Frankfort, Kentucky
  • Lincoln-Beatrice, Nebraska
  • Shreveport-Bossier City-Minden, Louisiana
  • Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk, Virginia-North Carolina

Best cities for short-term particle pollution

  • Boston-Worcester-Providence, Massachusetts-Rhode Island-New Hampshire-Connecticut
  • Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
  • Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point, North Carolina
  • Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut
  • Knoxville-Morristown-Sevierville, Tennessee
  • Milwaukee-Racine-Waukesha, Wisconsin
  • Montgomery-Selma-Alexander City, Alabama
  • New Orleans-Metairie-Hammond, Louisiana-Mississippi
  • Richmond, Virginia

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.