Which Cities are a Breath of Fresh Air?

The American Lung Association ranks cities by their amount of air pollution.

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Residents of Cheyenne, Wyo., Santa Fe, N.M., Honolulu, Hawaii, Great Falls, Mont., and Farmington, N.M.: Take a deep breath. You're breathing some of the cleanest air in the U.S., according to the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report. The five cities were ranked the best in the U.S. for year-round particle pollution (the tiny, hazardous particles in the air that can come from transportation, agriculture and chemicals and construction, among other industries), and were among many western and mountain states that earned spots on the ALA's other lists for ozone and short-term particle pollution. Fargo, N.D. was the only city to earn a spot on all three lists.

California, usually commended in green lists of all types, did not fare so well in the rankings. Three of the top five cities for worst year-round particle pollution were in Southern California. Bakersfield, Calif., fared the worst, followed by Pittsburgh, Pa., Los Angeles, Visalia, Calif., and Birmingham, Ala. Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Visalia and Fresno also rounded out the top four spots for ozone.

Our air is much dirtier than many would like to believe.

  • Six out of 10 people in the U.S. live in a county with an unhealthy level of ozone or particle pollution.
  • One in eight people live in one of the counties ranked worst for all three types of pollution (short-term particle, year-round particle, and ozone).
  • Reductions in particle pollution have been found to add five months to the lifespan of a city's population.
  • Air pollution can aggravate health conditions like asthma, bronchitis, emphseyma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. So what can we do to clean our air? Beyond the big stuff - like cleaning our power plants, diesel fleet, and shipping industry, and strengthening ozone standards - the American Lung Association recommends that we drive less, don't burn wood or trash, use less electricity, and make sure schools drive cleaner school buses.

    The ALA's full list can be found here.