120 million Americans live in a community where are air is deemed unhealthy

The top 5 cities with the most year-round particle pollution are: Bakersfield, CA; Visalia, CA; Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA; Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA; and Fairbanks, AK. Particle pollution can come from wildfires, coal-fired power plants, diesel engines and host of other sources.

CHICAGO – The state of the U.S. air quality continues to improve, but the American Lung Association warns that one out of three residents experiences unhealthy air, which is predominantly found in the West and where minority populations live.

The association used data from hundreds of counties nationwide and graded exposure to ozone pollution, particle pollution and short-term spikes in particles over a three-year period from 2019-2021.

Areas of the western U.S. ranked as some of the poorest in the nation, with residents exposed to the least healthy air, with high levels of particle pollution and ozone, according to the report.

The association said that nearly 120 million people live in areas with unhealthy air quality.

"The good news is that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act. In this year’s ‘State of the Air’ report, we found that 19.3 million fewer people are living in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone pollution, also known as smog," Harold Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in a statement.

The unhealthy air is said to come from wildfires, coal-fired power plants, vehicle engines and other sources.


These are the US cities with the worst air pollution

Cities that topped the list for daily spikes of pollutants were Bakersfield, California; Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California; Fairbanks, Alaska; Visalia, California; and Reno-Carson City-Fernley, Nevada.

Some of the same communities also topped the list for year-round particle pollution. These included: Bakersfield, California; Fresno-Madera-Hanford; California; Visalia, California; Los Angeles-Long Beach, California; and Fairbanks, Alaska.

Ozone pollution, known as smog, can trigger health impacts such as asthma and shortness of breath, and its rates were reported to have improved over the last few years.

The group estimated the impacted population from smog was around 103 million, nearly 20 million lower than last year’s air quality report.



These are the US cities with the cleanest air

The report also recognized communities with the cleanest air, primarily found in the eastern U.S.

The communities with the cleanest air included Asheville-Marion-Brevard, North Carolina; Bangor, Maine; Greenville-Kinston-Washington, North Carolina; Lincoln-Beatrice, Nebraska; Rochester-Batavia-Seneca Falls, New York; Wilmington, North Carolina; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

The American Lung Association stressed that it is difficult to thoroughly understand the impacts of air pollutants in the U.S. because not all counties have adequate observation sites.

The group estimated that more than 71 million Americans live where ozone and particle levels are not regularly monitored.