The State of the Air report, issued by the American Lung Association, had both worrying results, especially for cities in California who have implemented strict measures, but also offered some good results for others.
The quality of air in the US is affected by emissions from power plants, vehicles, oil and gas drilling, wildfires and agricultural pollution. Most days the quality of the air in the major cities reaches unhealthy levels with some far worse than others.
There are cities on the report which did not log a single bad-air day between the 2013 and 2015, the period of the analysis.
There are two factors which are measured, particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) and ozone pollution. On a bad-air day a city could have a spike of either of the two. The association stressed that both types of pollution threaten the health and lives of millions of Americans.
Ozone pollution is invisible and is currently one of the least well-controlled pollutants in the country and one of the most dangerous.
Particle pollution increased the risk of heart disease, lung cancer; asthma attacks and interferes with normal development. According to the association, the burden of pollution is not shared evenly and often poorer and other challenged groups are among the ones facing the highest exposure.
The six cities with the best quality of air never experienced a day of ozone or particle pollution spikes into unhealthy levels, and their average year-round particulate pollution levels were the lowest country wide. Officially the cleanest cities in America are:
- Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont (population 217,042)
- Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, Florida, (1,059,287)
- Elmira-Corning, New York, (184,702)
- Honolulu, Hawaii (998,714)
- Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida (588,088)
- Wilmington, North Carolina (277,969)
Many will argue that these are small cities. That does not play such a major role in pollution levels as we see that one of the worst performing on the list is Fairbanks, Alaska, ranking fifth in the list of cities with the highest unhealthy spikes in particulate matter pollution. This is mostly caused by wood-burning fires which they use to heat up their homes in the winter months.
Some cities, perhaps not as clean as the top six, had no days of unhealthy particulate matter spikes, with the lowest average of particulate matter year-round. There were days where they experience unhealthy ozone though but are considered to be quite clean. These include: Bangor, Maine; Casper, Wyoming, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Farmington, New Mexico; Homosassa Springs, Florida; Lakeland Winter Have, Florida; Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach, Florida; Pueblo Cañon City; Sierra Vista-Douglas, Arizona and Syracuse-Auburn, New York.
The criteria for the above cities couldn’t be ranked, since they had a total lack of unhealthy days, cities can be ranked according to their lowest average year-round particulate matter pollution.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set down the Clean Air Act, under which there is a set health standard for particulate matter. Any concentrations higher than 12 micrograms per cubic meter ( g/m³) of PM2.5, is considered to be unhealthy for residents of a city.
These 12 cities with the lowest year-round PM2.5 average and all ranked well below 12 ( g/m³):
- Cheyenne, Wyoming (4.1 g/m³)
- Farmington, New Mexico (4.1)
- Casper, Wyoming (4.6)
- Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii (4.8)
- Bismarck, North Dakota (5.3)
- Urban Honolulu, Hawaii (5.4)
- Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida (5.6)
- Colorado Springs, Colorado (5.7)
- Elmira-Corning, New York (5.7)
- Pueblo- Cañon City, Colorado (5.8)
- Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, Florida (5.9)
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, Florida (6)
These results are impressive and we hope that more of our cities will be able to make it onto the next list with the cleanest air.