Behold: The 20 Dirtiest, Most Polluted Cities in America

steven.buss via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Every so often some publication or other will roll out a list reminding us that a bunch of American cities suffer from repulsive levels of air pollution. Thanks a bunch, publications. And many of those cities can reliably be found in California's sprawling, car-dependent cities, which are also often unfortunately geographically adept at trapping smog.

This time, the list comes from Forbes, which crunched the data from the annual American Lung Association report on national air quality. And as usual, it's ugly. Grist condensed the list into a top 20 countdown, and here 'tis:

20. Cleveland, Ohio
19. Indianapolis, Ind.
18. Houston, Tx.
17. Salt Lake City, Utah
16. Washington, D.C.
15. Knoxville, Tenn.
14. New York, N.Y.
13. Cincinnatti, Ohio
12. Philadelphia, Pa.
11. Louisville, Ky.
10. Sacramento, Calif.
9. San Diego, Calif.
8. Phoenix, Ariz.
7. Birmingham, Ala.
6. Modesto, Calif.
5. Pittsburgh, Pa.
4. Fresno, Calif.
3. Visalia, Calif.
2. Los Angeles, Calif.
1. Bakersfield, Calif.

Bakersfield can be expected to land on the top spot these days. And here's why, according to Forbes: "Hot, dusty, adjacent to California’s biggest oil fields, Bakersfield has 60 days a year of unhealthy air, 10 times a level considered acceptable. Its ozone levels are better than at any time in the past 15 years, but still unhealthy for 100 days out of the year."

Mmmm. Oil fields. My hometown of Sacramento, CA is smack dab in the middle of the list, for the same reasons 6 other California towns make the cut: Sprawl, cars, and a valleyed geographic location that keeps the smog sedentary. And my parents wonder why I never visit.

Midwestern and East Coast cities, meanwhile, are more likely to be polluted due to proximity to industry or polluting power plants. Such is the case with cities like Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Knoxville. Coincidentally, incoming EPA regulations will shut down exceedingly old and dirty power plants in each of the aforementioned metropolises, making each healthier, safer, and cleaner places to live. Which has Republicans in Congress outraged, of course, and bemoaning the 'overreach' and 'job-killing' policies of the agency designed to protect people from deadly levels of smog.

Guess they prefer the 'people-killing' policy of letting unchecked pollution envelop cities where millions of Americans live.

Tags: Air Pollution