The Most Polluted Cities in America

This week the American Lung Association released its annual “State of the Air” report, which ranks the most polluted cities in the country. If you live in California, you may want to take a seat.

The ALA ranks the cities in three categories: ozone levels, short-term particle pollution and year-round particle pollution. We’ll look at the five most polluted cities, the vast majority of which are located in California, within each of these categories.

But first, let’s take a closer look at the measurements used in the study.

You’ve probably heard of ozone before, and if you remember the 80s and 90s, there was a lot of talk about the ozone layer disappearing, which was a bad thing. But it turns out that too much ozone isn’t good either.

According to the report, “Basically, the ozone layer found high in the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) is beneficial because it shields us from much of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. However, ozone air pollution at ground level where we can breathe it (in the troposphere) is harmful. It causes serious health problems.”

Ozone is created as a result of a chemical reaction between other pollutants in our atmosphere and it is the primary ingredient in smog. The study notes that ozone can even be deadly.

“Three groups of researchers working independently reviewed and analyzed the research around deaths associated with short-term exposures to ozone. The three teams—at Harvard, Johns Hopkins and New York University—used different approaches but all came to similar conclusions. All three studies reported a small, but robust association between daily ozone levels and increased deaths”

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