15 Cities with the Worst Air Quality in the U.S. – 7 Are in One State

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Imagine the very air you breathe being harmful to your health and potentially life-threatening long-term effects. This is the harsh reality of the situation, with an ever-expanding industrial sector, growing population numbers, increased motor vehicles on our roads, household combustion devices, and wildfires.

Air pollution has been identified as one of the primary causes of respiratory infections. It has even been linked to more severe illnesses such as strokes, heart disease, and lung cancer. The American Lung Association has just released its annual State of the Air report – and you might want to hold your breath for this one.

Take a look at the top 15 cities with the worst air quality below:

1. Bakersfield, California

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Taking the top spot for the worst air quality in the U.S. is none other than Bakersfield, California. The so-called “breadbasket of California”, a name given because of its large agricultural sector, tops the charts for short-term particle pollution. It also ranks third for ozone pollution, earning it the overall best-of-the-worst spot.

2. Visalia, California

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Staying in the state of California, and next on the list is Visalia. Visalia ranks fourth for short-term particle pollution and second for ozone pollution, largely due to the many heavy-duty trucks in the area. Autos and light trucks as well as combustion from stationery sources also contribute to poor air quality.

3. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California

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California is taking the cake here – Fresno, Madera, and Hanford are next on the list. They rank second for short-term particle pollution and fourth for ozone pollution. The poor air quality results from tourist, commuter, and truck traffic, farming operations, and industrial factory emissions.

4. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California

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Next up are Los Angeles and Long Beach California, ranking ninth for short-term air pollution and topping the list for ozone pollution. Air pollution is a result of sky, port, and freeway traffic, with the mountainous basin surrounding the cities contributing to trapping air pollution.

5. Fairbanks, Alaska

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Moving away from California (for now), Fairbanks, Alaska is next on the list with a short-term air pollution ranking of third. It is not ranked for ozone pollution as of yet. Poor air quality results from temperature inversions trapping pollution close to the ground.

6. Sacramento-Roseville, California

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Sacramento and Roseville are next up with short-term air pollution of eighth and an ozone pollution ranking of seventh thanks to transportation exhaust emissions. 

7. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California

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San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland are in at seventh, with a short-term air pollution ranking of sixth and an ozone pollution ranking of 11th. This is mainly due to transportation emissions in the cities. 

8. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona

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Moving to Arizona, Phoenix and Mesa are next, with a short-term air pollution ranking of 13th and an ozone pollution ranking of fifth. The transport sector is one of the most significant contributors to poor air quality in the cities. 

9. Medford-Grants Pass, Oregon

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Medford and Grants Pass in Oregon are next on the list with a short-term air pollution ranking of 25th, while the ozone pollution isn’t ranked as of yet. Vehicles and industry are the biggest contributors to poor air quality. 

10. Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, Indiana

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Rounding off the top 10 are Indianapolis, Carmel, and Muncie in the state of Indiana. While they are not officially ranked according to short-term air pollution or ozone pollution, Carbon Monoxide omissions are some of the highest in the country. 

11. Yakima, Washington

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Yakima, Washington is next on the list, with a short-term particle pollution ranking of 11th. Ozone pollution is not ranked, but poor air quality is a result of particle pollution due to subsistence inversion. 

12. Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Moving to the state of Michigan, Detroit, Warren, and Ann Arbor are up next. Although not officially ranked for short-term air or ozone pollution, poor air quality is a result of transport corridors, industrial facilities, and coal-powered plants.

13. Chico, California

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Chico, California is ninth on the short-term particle pollution list mainly due to smoke from wildfires and domestic wood-burning. Ozone pollution isn’t ranked as of yet. 

14. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton; Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia

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Next up are Pittsburgh, New Castle, and Weirton in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia respectively, ranking 20th for short-term air pollution. This is largely due to major industrial polluters and vehicles.

15. Eugene-Springfield, Oregon

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Rounding off the list are Eugene and Springfield in the state of Oregon, with a short-term air pollution ranking of 12th. The reasons for such poor air quality include stubble and wood burning, vehicle and industrial emissions, pollen from grass seed farms, and agricultural pesticides and dust. 

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Andrew Herrig is a finance expert and money nerd and the founder of Wealthy Nickel, where he writes about personal finance, side hustles, and entrepreneurship. As an avid real estate investor and owner of multiple businesses, he has a passion for helping others build wealth and shares his own family’s journey on his blog.

Andrew holds a Masters of Science in Economics from the University of Texas at Dallas and a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University. He has worked as a financial analyst and accountant in many aspects of the financial world.

Andrew’s expert financial advice has been featured on CNBC, Entrepreneur, Fox News, GOBankingRates, MSN, and more.

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