Worst States for Air Quality in the United States

Evidence from monitoring stations across the United States indicates that air pollution has been steadily increasing over the past few years.

According to studies of air quality, pollution levels in some U.S. S worsened year after year for the past few years More than 40% of U.S. adults, or 43%, are smokers, reports the American Lung Association. Three 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.

Most of the United States now enjoys better air quality than it did even a decade ago, but increasingly severe weather is making pollution problems in many urban areas even worse. Particle pollution is on the rise because of a combination of factors, including rising temperatures that have increased ozone levels and shifting rain patterns that have led to more frequent wildfires.

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

First place goes to the Golden State of California

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

State population-wise, California has more people than any other state in the United States. S in terms of GDP, the world's fifth-largest The city's air quality is severely impacted by both vehicular and industrial emissions. 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. Air pollution is exacerbated by smoke from wildfires, and incidents of extremely poor air quality are becoming more likely.

State Number Two: Pennsylvania

According to the American Lung Association, Pennsylvania, a state with a long history in the coal industry, has had ongoing problems with ozone and particle pollution. Pennsylvania is home to five of the top 25 most polluted cities in the United States (for year-round particle pollution), with Pittsburgh coming in at number seven. 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. Among the 203 largest U.S. cities, the Houston area, which includes both of the city's major airports, ranked 17th in annual particle pollution.

Sources of pollution in the Lone Star State are classified as either "point" or "non-point" by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Point sources include large, stationary facilities like fossil fuel-fired power plants, smelters, industrial boilers, petroleum refineries, and manufacturing plants. Everything else, including land, vehicles, and naturally occurring organisms, is included in the non-point category.

State #4: The Ever-Greater Washington

There are four cities in the state of Washington that rank in the top 25 for short-term particle pollution, and two of those cities rank in the top 10. According to the American Lung Association's (ALA) "State of the Air" 2019 report, the Seattle-Tacoma area's air quality has worsened so much as a result of recent wildfires that it has risen from the 15th most polluted in the country in 2018 to the ninth most polluted this year for short-term particle pollution. As a region, Yakima was rated #6.

The Washington State Department of Health reports that vehicle emissions, outdoor fires, and wood smoke account for a significant portion of the state's overall outdoor air pollution problem. Air pollution is largely caused by vehicles and machinery that run on gasoline and diesel, as well as by certain types of industries and wildfires.

#5: Oregon

Medford, Grants Pass, the Portland area, and even Vancouver, Washington, and its surrounding communities, are among the 25 cities with the highest levels of short-term particle pollution.

Diesel soot, benzene, byproducts of auto exhaust and industrial sources, metals like manganese, nickel, and lead, and other "air toxics" all contribute to Oregon's high particulate matter levels, as reported by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

#6: Alaska

Two of the 25 most polluted cities in the United States for short-term particle pollution are in Alaska, a state known for its wide open spaces and pristine natural beauty. Moreover, Fairbanks, Alaska was ranked third out of the top 10 most polluted cities for year-round particle pollution, while Anchorage, Alaska was ranked twenty-first out of the top 25 most polluted cities. When people in places like Fairbanks burn wood for heat in the winter, they contribute significantly to the area's short-term particle pollution.

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 

Salt Lake City and Logan, both in Utah, rank among the top 25 cities with the highest levels of short-term particle pollution. In the winter, temperature inversions, in which cold air at the surface is trapped beneath warmer air, are a major source of ozone pollution. The snowy valley floors of Utah in the winter actually reflect rather than absorb heat. Thus, "normal vertical mixing of warm and cold air that keeps pollutants from building to unhealthy levels at the surface" is disrupted. ”

The Utah Department of Health reports that vehicles and local sources, such as homes (especially those with wood burning stoves), small businesses, and commercial buildings, are the primary contributors to Utah's air pollution problem. Besides manufacturing, other major contributors include services like gas stations, dry cleaning, and home heating.

Additional states experiencing poor air quality


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

New York

New York City is the 10th most ozone-polluted city in the United States, and the most polluted city in the state of New York. According to the New York State Department of Health, the primary contributors to air pollution are the combustion of fossil fuels (to generate electricity) and the heating and cooling of private residences.


In addition to its neighbors New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Connecticut also suffers from ozone pollution. The American Lung Association gave every county there an "F" because of the number of days with unhealthy ozone levels.

When a state has poor air quality, what causes this?

By looking at the number of times a city (and its counties, where applicable) in a state ranked in the top 25 for year-round particle pollution, we were able to determine which states had the "worst" air quality. 24-hour particle pollution and ozone days In addition, we considered the city's proximity to other major metropolitan areas. We also took into account climatic variables, such as temperature, that contribute to ozone and particle pollution in certain regions (the West and the Southwest, for example, are notoriously high in ozone).

The most common forms of pollution are airborne particles and elevated ozone levels. Particle pollution, as defined 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 latest available pollution data, collected by federal, state, and local governments and tribes in 2015, 2016, and 2017, for its report. The report uses United States Environmental Protection Agency data to compile annual rankings of particle pollution. S System for Assessing Air Quality (AQS) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

After all is said and done

Air pollution has serious consequences for people's health, especially for the young and the elderly, who are already more susceptible to the effects of environmental toxins. Diseases like heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma attacks can all be exacerbated by particle pollution, and its presence can also impede the lungs' ability to function normally. Breathing in ozone can cause health problems, including asthma attacks, heart attacks, and even premature death.

If you are aware of the factors that affect air quality, you can better protect yourself from polluted environments. AirNow provides an air quality index (AQI) that you can check daily to get a snapshot of the air quality in your state and city. You can find a more comprehensive overview of the air quality in your state in the form of a report card on the SOTA website. Use these sites to find out when it's safe to go outside if you have a medical condition or sensitivity (like asthma).

It's important to remember that particle pollution from outside can make its way inside, and that indoor air pollution can be even more dangerous than outdoor pollution. Staying inside on days with high outdoor pollution is one way to cut down on indoor air pollution, as is limiting the use of potentially polluting household activities like cooking, painting, and cleaning. Maintaining clean air ducts and filters is another precaution the EPA recommends.

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