The Worst Polluted US City Has Been Revealed, Data Shows
A study by The Guardian using cutting-edge modeling showed the 5 worst places in the US for fine particle air pollution. The best place in America is not a city with lots of traffic or a famous heavy industry zone. It’s a small town surrounded by farms and mountains.
Using a model created by a group of researchers from schools such as the University of Washington, these results show that in the US as a whole, the areas with the most pollution are mostly where Black and Hispanic people live. It turns out that race is a better indicator of air pollution exposure than income.
Julian Marshall, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Washington, co-directs the Center for Air, Climate, and Energy Solutions, and was part of the study team that made the computer model. “What we’re seeing here is segregation,” he said. “You separate the pollution from the people.”
Researchers call the tiny air pollution particles released by cars, factories, wildfires, and dusty farming activities PM2.5. These are big enough to get deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream, which raises the risk of death from lung diseases, heart attacks, and strokes. According to new study, they are linked to a wide range of health problems, from miscarriages and Covid-19 to kidney damage and blood infections.
The Worst Polluted US Cities
Bakersfield Area, California
The worst air in the United States is in the area around Bakersfield, a farming town in California’s Central Valley 100 miles north of Los Angeles. Local air experts say Bakersfield is in a bad spot because it is surrounded by mountains that trap dust, harmful farming chemicals, truck and train fumes, and oil drilling exhaust. The mountains also let pollution blow south from other parts of the state’s large population. Environmentalists say that lax action against polluting industries by local air regulators has made things worse.
Over the years that were looked at, the worst census areas in Bakersfield had up to 16 micrograms of fine particulate pollution per cubic meter. This is a lot more than the EPA’s limit, which means that something needs to be done to clean it up. For most of the last 25 years, the Clean Air Act’s goals have not been met in the area around the south end of California’s Central Valley.
South Los Angeles
South Los Angeles has a lot of freeway interchanges, railyards, and buildings that have been used as a dump for a long time. In these landlocked neighborhoods and small cities, like Compton, Maywood, and Paramount, people like Felipe Aguirre routinely breathe air that is higher than the EPA limit of 12 µg/m3.
People who live in South LA, who are mostly Black and Hispanic, take in 50% more pollution than people who live in Bel Air, which is across town. Bel Air, on the other hand, is 87% white, and its people live up to twelve years longer than those in South LA.
Northwest Indiana is a big source of pollution from factories even though it is just a short drive from Chicago. The steel industry has long been based in the most dirty parts of the region, which includes most of Gary and the city of East Chicago. In the last few decades, job cuts have left some areas empty and run-down, but many industries are still running.
Some experts on air pollution have said that Indiana should have more controls on its emissions. The Chicago Tribune cites an EPA study from 2021 that says it has the highest amount of industrial toxic pollution emissions per square mile in the country.
The city that is home to the famous Indianapolis 500 raceway has always liked cars. Federal data show that people in this metro area drive more than people in almost any other metro area. For years, the area has also had to deal with the side effects: a lot of air pollution covering most of Indianapolis’ central heart.
Professor Gabriel Filippelli, who runs the Environmental Resilience Institute at Indiana University, says that a lot of the city’s fine particle pollution comes from traffic sources.
Robert Bullard, an environmentalist, wasn’t shocked that there is a cloud of pollution over downtown Houston. The school he works at, Texas Southern University, is in the middle of it.
Behind a ring of freeways is the historically black university and many other neighborhoods of color. Also, they are only a few miles west of one of the busiest ports and petrochemical processing sites in the country. Houston is not only a hub for infrastructure in the oil business, but its residents also drive more miles every day than anyone else in the country.