These Cities Have The Worst Air Pollution In The U.S.

Photographed by Michael O'Neal.
Now that spring weather is finally coming around, we just want to spend all of our time outside, breathing in that fresh air. But, if you're living in one of these cities, you might be breathing in more than you realize.

The State Of The Air 2015 report, released by the American Lung Association, compiles pollution rates across the country using the most current available data from official monitoring sites, compiled from 2011 through 2013. The report breaks down the levels of both particle and ozone pollution over that period of time and details how many people are most at risk of exposure to unhealthy pollution levels.

These cities ranked as the most ozone-polluted in the country:
1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
2. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA
3. Bakersfield, CA
4. Fresno-Madera, CA
5. Sacramento-Roseville, CA 

These cities ranked as the most polluted by year-round, short-term particle pollution:
1. Fresno-Madera, CA 
2. Bakersfield, CA 
3. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA 
4. Modesto-Merced, CA 
5. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA 

On the other hand, the six "cleanest" cities had no days in the unhealthy range for ozone or particle pollution: Bismarck, ND; Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, FL; Elmira-Corning, NY; Fargo-Wahpeton, ND-MN; Rapid City-Spearfish, SD; and Salinas, CA.

Possibly more shocking is that the report found nearly 44% of Americans "live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe." This is especially worrying because air pollution has been linked to everything from increased heart disease risk to higher stress levels. But, the report did show that we're continuing the decades-long trend of decreasing pollution levels overall. So, there is a little bit of sunlight peeking out from behind all those smog clouds; we've just got to keep it up and push our efforts into high gear.
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