Worst States for Air Quality in the United States

According to studies of air quality, pollution levels in some U.S. S deteriorated steadily over the past few years More than 40% of U.S. adults, or 43%, are smokers, reports the American Lung Association. 3 percent of the population resides in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone (also known as'smog') and/or particle pollution (also known as'soot'), both of which have serious negative health effects and can even worsen indoor air quality.

While most of the United States has better air quality than it did even a decade ago, rising weather conditions are making pollution worse in many urban areas. The combination of rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns has led to an increase in ozone and particle pollution due to wildfires.

According to the American Lung Association's 2019 State of the Air report, the seven states listed below have the worst air quality.

State of California, Number One

When it comes to pollution, California is always at the top of the list. California is home to six of the ten most polluted cities in the United States, with the Fresno-Madera area being the most polluted. Cities in California, such as Bakersfield, have some of the worst short-term particle pollution in the country, and Los Angeles has some of the worst ozone pollution.

Population-wise, California (or "The Golden State") has more people than any other state in the United States. S with the world's fifth-largest economy Motor vehicle exhaust and factory emissions are its two primary causes of air pollution. The state's warm climate and local topography, especially in agricultural areas, contribute to the trapping of pollution within valley walls, leading to higher ozone levels. Poor air quality is exacerbated by smoke from wildfires, and the likelihood of extreme air quality events is on the rise.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Number Two

The American Lung Association (ALA) reports that Pennsylvania, a state with a long history in the coal industry, has had ongoing problems with ozone and particle pollution. High levels of particle pollution are a problem in five Pennsylvania cities; Pittsburgh is ranked #7 on the list of the world's most polluted cities. Pennsylvania is affected by regional ozone pollution because it is a major metropolitan sub-region of New York. Furthermore, State Impact Pennsylvania reported that the ozone levels in 16 of the 36 counties for which the ALA had data were either inadequate or dangerous.

Since 2003, when the state began switching from using coal to natural gas, annual particulate matter levels have been steadily declining.

#3: Texas

Texas, the second most populous state in the country, is home to two of the top 25 most polluted cities in the country due to year-round particle pollution. Because of its proximity to two major airports, the Houston metropolitan area has the 17th highest annual particle pollution rate among the 203 studied cities.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality classifies polluters as either "point" or "non-point," with the former referring to large, stationary facilities like fossil fuel-fired power plants, smelters, industrial boilers, petroleum refineries, and manufacturing facilities. Area, on-road mobile, non-road mobile, and biogenic sources are all examples of non-point sources.

Washington, D.C.

Washington is home to four of the top 25 cities in the United States in terms of short-term particle pollution, including two of the top ten. Recent wildfires had such a negative impact on air quality in the Seattle-Tacoma area that the American Lung Association's 2019 "State of the Air" report ranked it as the ninth most polluted in the country for short-term particle pollution, up from the 15th most polluted in 2018. The Yakima region was rated #6.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, outdoor air pollution in Washington State is largely caused by three sources: motor vehicles, outdoor burning, and wood smoke. Wildfires, certain industries, and the use of gas and diesel-powered equipment are also major contributors to the problem of air pollution.

#5: Oregon

Medford, Grants Pass, the Portland area, and even Vancouver, Washington, are some of the top 25 most polluted cities in the United States due to short-term particle pollution.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reports that the state's high particulate matter levels are caused by "air toxics," such as diesel soot, benzene, by-products from auto exhaust and industrial sources, and metals like manganese, nickel, and lead.

#6: Alaska

Two of the top 25 most polluted cities in the United States for short-term particle pollution are located in Alaska, despite the state's vast open spaces and natural expanses. In addition, Fairbanks, Alaska ranked third out of the top 10 most polluted cities for year-round particle pollution, while Anchorage ranked twenty-first out of the top 25. When people in places like Fairbanks burn wood for heat in the winter, short-term particle pollution becomes extremely severe.

Particle pollutants in Alaska are caused by things like dust, land clearing open burning, wood stoves, wildfires, and volcanic ash, says the state's Division of Air Quality. Vehicle emissions are also very high due to cars and trucks.

#7: Utah 

Short-term particle pollution ranks Salt Lake City and Logan, Utah, as two of the top 25 most polluted cities in the United States. In the winter, temperature inversions, in which cold air at the surface is trapped beneath warmer air, are a major source of ozone pollution. Snowy valley floors in Utah in the winter actually reflect rather than absorb heat. The "normal vertical mixing of warm and cold air that keeps pollutants from building to unhealthy levels at the surface" is disrupted as a result. ”

According to the Utah Department of Health, fine particles in Utah's air pollution come primarily from transportation and local sources like homes (especially those with wood burning stoves), small businesses, and commercial buildings. Besides manufacturing, other major contributors include services like gas stations, dry cleaning, and home heating.

Additional states experiencing air quality issues


Three counties in Montana rank in the top ten for short-term particle pollution, so the state's air quality issues are worth noting as well. Climate change is to blame for the worsening air quality, as it has led to an increase in wildfires.

New York

New York City ranks 10th among the most ozone-polluted cities in the United States, and it ranks 25th among cities in the state of New York. According to the New York State Department of Health, most air pollution is caused by the combustion of fossil fuels (to produce electricity) and the heating and cooling of private residences.


Like its neighbors New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Connecticut is affected by ozone pollution. All of its counties were given an "F" by the ALA because of the number of days they experienced unhealthy ozone levels.

Explain the causes of poor air quality in a state.

To determine which states had the "worst" air quality, we looked at the American Lung Association's (ALA) State of the Air report and counted the number of times a city (and its counties, where applicable) within a state ranked in the top 25 for year-round particle pollution. day-to-day ozone levels and 24-hour particle pollution Consideration was also given to the city's proximity to other major cities. In addition, we considered other factors of geography that contribute to ozone and particle pollution, such as region (the West and the Southwest, for example, are notoriously high in ozone) and areas with warmer weather.

Particulate matter and ozone levels are the two most commonly cited causes of pollution. Particle pollution, as described by AirNow, is made up of both solid and liquid particles, and it results from a wide range of human and nonhuman activities, including industrial and civilian emissions, fires, and chemical reactions in the atmosphere. While higher in the atmosphere, ozone helps filter out harmful UV rays, near the ground, ozone created by pollutants reacting chemically with sunlight is harmful to human health.

The ALA used the most up-to-date pollution data, collected by federal, state, and local governments and tribes in 2015, 2016, and 2017, to compile its report. The report uses data collected by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to rank particle pollution levels throughout the year. S Air Quality Index (AQI) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Last but not least

Children and people with chronic health conditions are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of air pollution. Heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma attacks are just some of the health problems that can be exacerbated by particle pollution, which can also hinder the lungs' ability to function normally. Breathing in ozone is bad for your health, and it can also damage your heart and shorten your life expectancy.

Air quality education helps people avoid polluted, hazardous environments. AirNow's air quality index (AQI) gives you a daily snapshot of pollution levels across the country and in your specific city or state. The SOTA website provides a more comprehensive overview of the air quality in your state in the form of a report card. These websites can help people with illnesses or sensitivities (like asthma) figure out when it's safe to go outside and enjoy the weather.

Indoor air pollution can be even worse than outdoor pollution, so it's important to remember that outdoor air pollution, especially particle pollution, travels indoors as well. Staying inside on days with high outdoor pollution is one step toward improving indoor air quality, as is reducing the number of activities inside the home, such as cooking, painting, or using household cleaners. It is also recommended by the EPA that you have adequate ventilation and that you clean your air ducts and filters regularly.

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