Top 25 Towns For Clean And Dirty Air

Blue sky tops a layer of smog that blankets Fresno, Calif., in this Aug. 15, 2002, file photo.
AP Photo/Fresno Bee
People in the U.S. are breathing cleaner air than a year ago, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.

So says the American Lung Association's (ALA) "State of the Air 2006." The annual report focuses on particle pollution (soot) in the air, as well as ozone levels (smog).

Last year's winners and losers for year-round soot pollution didn't change. Cheyenne, Wyo. still has the least year-round soot pollution, while the Los Angeles area has the most year-round soot pollution, according to the ALA.

Sooty air showed a "general decline" since the ALA's 2005 report, largely due to pollution-cutting programs at coal-fired power plants.

But soot and smog remain "persistent threats against large parts of the United States," according to the ALA.

Filthy air isn't healthy for anyone, but it can be particularly hazardous for senior citizens, children, and people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, or diabetes, notes the ALA.

More than half of the U.S. population lives in counties that have unhealthful levels of smog or soot, the report also states. However, some towns had cleaner air than others.

Who's Got The Cleanest Air Year-Round?

Cheyenne, Wyo., leads the ALA's latest list of the top 25 U.S. towns with the least long-term particle pollution (soot). Here is that list. Metropolitan areas that tied received the same number.

    1. Cheyenne, Wyo.
    2. Santa Fe-Espanola, N.M.
    3. Honolulu
    4. Great Falls, Mont.
    5. Tucson, Ariz.
    6. Anchorage, Alaska
    7. Farmington, N.M.
    7. Bismark, N.D.
    9. Albuquerque, N.M.
    10. Rapid City, S.D.
    11. Pueblo, Colo.
    12. Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo.
    12. Fargo-Wahpeton, N.D.-Minn.
    12. Duluth, Minn.-Wis.
    15. Salinas, Calif.
    15. Midland-Odessa, Texas
    17. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.
    18. Colorado Springs, Colo.
    18. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.
    18. Albany-Corvallis-Lebanon, Ore.
    21. Reno-Sparks, Nev.
    22. Redding, Calif.
    22. Port St. Lucie-Fort Pierce, Fla.
    24. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, Calif.
    25. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.

Who's Got The Sootiest Air Year-Round?

The ALA lists the 25 U.S. metropolitan areas most polluted by year-round particle pollution (soot). Again, ties are listed with the same number:

    1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, Calif.
    2. Bakersfield, Calif.
    3. Pittsburgh-New Castle, Pa.
    4. Visalia-Porterville, Calif.
    5. Fresno-Madera, Calif.
    6. Detroit-Warren-Flint, Mich.
    7. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif.
    8. Cleveland-Akron-Elyria, Ohio
    9. Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, Ala.
    9. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville, Ga.-Ala.
    11. Chicago-Naperville-Michigan City, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.
    12. Weirton-Steubenville, W.Va.-Ohio
    13. York-Hanover-Gettysburg, Pa.
    13. St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, Mo.-Ill.
    13. Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington, Ohio-Ky.-Ind.
    16. New York-Newark-Bridgeport, N.Y.-N.J.-Conn.-Pa.
    16. Lancaster, Pa.
    18. Merced, Calif.
    18. Canton-Massillon, Ohio
    20. Charleston, W.Va.
    21. Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.Va.
    22. Reading, Pa.
    22. Hagerstown-Martinsburg, Md.-W.Va.
    24. Indianapolis-Anderson-Columbus, Ind.
    25. Louisville-Elizabethtown-Scottsburg, Ky.-Ind.
A separate list shows that the top five towns for ozone were all in California (Bakersfield, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, Visalia-Porterville, Fresno-Madera, and Merced).

Sources: American Lung Association, "State of the Air 2006." WebMD Medical News: "Cleanest Air: Cheyenne, Wyo. Worst Air: L.A." News release, American Lung Association.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed By Ann Edmundson, MD
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