Six of the United States’ 10 most polluted cities can be found in California, according to the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report released April 19. The report used data from 2013-2015.
Bakersfield, Calif., leads the U.S. among cities with the most days of highly-polluted air, as well as the worst spikes of short-term pollution.
The cities with the worst overall year-round pollution are also both in California — Visalia and Hanford.
The Los Angeles/Long Beach area has the worst ozone pollution.
According to the report, six metro areas recorded no days in which pollution reached unhealthy levels, including Fort Myers/Naples, Fla.; Melbourne, Fla.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Wilmington, N.C.; Elmira, N.Y.; and Burlington, Vt.
Paul Billings of the American Lung Association said that California’s terrain, rising population, and sunny weather are to blame for the air pollution.
He said the increase of people brings in more cars and trucks and many of the residents choose to live in basins and valleys, which are where pollution is likely to settle. He also said California’s high number of sunny days contributes to its higher level of ozone pollution.
The pollution is rising despite the state’s strict environmental laws on tailpipe pollution, as well as its elimination of coal-fired power plants.
Billings says of California, “They’ve done more than any other state to counteract air pollution.”
The report’s findings are a mix of positives and negatives because while it shows that annual pollution has improved, short-term spikes of very polluted air have risen.
“While most of the nation has much cleaner air quality than even a decade ago, many cities reported their highest number of unhealthy days since the report began” 18 years ago.
The report indicates that about 125 million Americans across the nation live with unhealthy levels of air pollution. This places them at risk for premature death and other serious conditions, including asthma, cardiovascular damage, lung cancer, and developmental and reproductive harm.
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