America's Most Polluted Cities Revealed

Although much of the country may have a stereotype of Pittsburgh as a blue collar, steel mill town, Leikauf says that's no longer the case. According to him, more than 80 percent of western Pennsylvania's particulate matter actually drifts from Ohio power plants.

"It turns out we don't have very many steel mills at all anymore," Leikauf said. "These are fine particles. They stay suspended in the air. You can detect them in the Antarctic. In fact, some of California's air pollution is coming from China."


Detroit was the ninth most polluted city by short-term particle pollution.


Los Angeles still led the pack of the most polluted American cities year-round in ozone.

Also, appearing on the list of cities most polluted by ozone were Bakersfield, Calif.; Houston; Dallas-Ft. Worth; New York-Newark and Baltimore-Washington, D.C.


New York, N.Y./Newark, N.J. ranked as the eighth most polluted city by ozone.


The association releases the report every year in hopes of educating the public and improving government controls on air quality.

Nolen suggests that communities look at alternative ways of dealing with air pollution, such as getting cleaner technology for diesel vehicles like school buses and garbage trucks or smarter urban planning. She also said that global warming schemes aren't necessarily the solution.

"Cap and trade [schemes] don't address the local problem," she said. "Planting a tree in Brazil isn't going to help the kid riding his bike next to a freeway in Washington, D.C.


For the first time ever, Pittsburgh landed on the top of a most polluted cities list. The American Lung Association ranked the "Steel City" first in short-term particle pollution and second in year-long particle pollution.


Leikauf, the professor in Pittsburgh, says the implications for Americans are huge and that although the report was broken down by city, this is not just a local issue.

"People need to be aware of that fact that air pollution causes illnesses in the United States. They can think about their daily habits, their auto choices. Everything that they do does impact this question," he said. "We also have to worry about it as a country. You cannot sleep when you have real problems and let them just fester. — The country needs to have clean air.

"If you clean the air now it's going to be clean forever. … The cost benefit is very high."

To find out how your city fared, go to www.lungusa.org.

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