And the Top 20 States With the "Most Toxic" Air Are ...


Photo credit: Señor Codo via Fotopedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Quick -- name the "most toxic" state in the U.S. Any guesses? Here's a clue: the largest source of toxic air pollution in the nation is our fleet of coal-fired power plants. But we've got hundreds of those suckers around the country, and their emissions can travel hundreds of miles. So the more power plants you've got in or around your state, the more toxic it's likely to be. Well, the NRDC has determined which 20 states suffer the most toxic air pollution.

Is your state one of them? Not if you live in relatively coal plant-free states like Oregon, Washington, Vermont, New York, or California. However, if you're living in the rust belt or the South, you're not quite so lucky.

Here's the NRDC's list of the top 20 most toxic states:

  1. Ohio
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Florida
  4. Kentucky
  5. Maryland
  6. Indiana
  7. Michigan
  8. West Virginia
  9. Georgia
  10. North Carolina
  11. South Carolina
  12. Alabama
  13. Texas
  14. Virginia
  15. Tennessee
  16. Missouri
  17. Illinois
  18. Wisconsin
  19. New Hampshire
  20. Iowa
Ohio! Now officially the state with the most toxic air pollution! But don't feel down, Florida, Pennsylvania or Kentucky! You're right up there too!

Bear in mind that this listing factors in toxic air pollution -- from coal and oil-fired power plants primarily -- not dumped waste or contaminated land or such.

The list was prepared in response to the industry-led onslaught against the EPA's proposed new public health protections: The EPA is moving to curb the amount of mercury and toxic emissions power plants can let fly into the air we breathe, and big business is throwing a fit.

But there's really no argument here -- these emissions make people sick, cause hundreds of thousands of missed work days annually, and are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths annually. It's not hyperbolic to say that these emissions are killing people -- but with a relatively minimal investment from utilities, we could clean up this dangerous pollution.

As Dan Lashof, NRDC's Climate Center Director says, "Power plants are the biggest industrial toxic air polluters in our country, putting children and families at risk by dumping deadly and dangerous poisons into the air we breathe. Tougher standards are long overdue. Members of Congress who consider blocking toxic pollution safeguards should understand that this literally will cost American children and families their health and lives."

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