The Most Polluted Major Cities in America

Written by Carly Hallman

Breathing clean air and drinking clean water are two things many Americans take for granted, but perhaps we shouldn’t. In some parts of the country, the air is full of particulates, the ozone layer is thin, and tap water is rife with contaminants. We’ve created a list of the 100 most populated cities in the US and ranked them using our pollution index. These are US cities, ranked by air pollution, tap water pollution, and ozone levels. Will it be major urban areas or sprawling suburbs? This list of the most polluted cities in the US might surprise you!

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What are the 25 most polluted cities in the US?

According to three major factors of fine particulate matter, ozone layer, and tap water contaminants, these are the most polluted cities in America, organized using our pollution index! America’s most polluted city is the metro area of Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, which is only one of many polluted cities in California on this list:

  1. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA – Pollution Index: 206.70
  2. Modesto, CA – Pollution Index: 202.08
  3. Fresno, CA – Pollution Index: 201.76
  4. Bakersfield, CA – Pollution Index: 195.60
  5. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ – Pollution Index: 195.17
  6. Stockton-Lodi, CA – Pollution Index: 161.69
  7. El Paso, TX – Pollution Index: 157.00
  8. Albuquerque, NM – Pollution Index: 156.96
  9. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV – Pollution Index: 156.71
  10. San Diego-Carlsbad, CA – Pollution Index: 155.11
  11. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX – Pollution Index: 151.30
  12. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA – Pollution Index: 149.96
  13. Wichita, KS – Pollution Index: 149.47
  14. Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA – Pollution Index: 148.85
  15. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX – Pollution Index: 148.42
  16. St. Louis, MO-IL – Pollution Index: 146.12
  17. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI – Pollution Index: 144.41
  18. Provo-Orem, UT – Pollution Index: 142.07
  19. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD – Pollution Index: 140.87
  20. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX – Pollution Index: 140.78
  21. Ogden-Clearfield, UT – Pollution Index: 139.82
  22. Salt Lake City, UT – Pollution Index: 139.34
  23. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA – Pollution Index: 138.73
  24. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX – Pollution Index: 136.72
  25. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA – Pollution Index: 136.31

What are the top 25 least polluted cities in the US?

According to our pollution index, these are the cleanest cities in the US, at least out of the top 100 most populated cities. Check out these clean, green US city rankings by pollution levels:

  1. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI – Pollution Index: 82.16
  2. Portland-South Portland, ME – Pollution Index: 82.54
  3. Urban Honolulu, HI – Pollution Index: 83.18
  4. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL – Pollution Index: 85.14
  5. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL – Pollution Index: 85.47
  6. Colorado Springs, CO – Pollution Index: 86.37
  7. Memphis, TN-MS-AR – Pollution Index: 87.50
  8. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA – Pollution Index: 88.18
  9. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL – Pollution Index: 90.98
  10. Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL – Pollution Index: 91.38
  11. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD – Pollution Index: 91.93
  12. Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN – Pollution Index: 91.97
  13. Providence-Warwick, RI-MA – Pollution Index: 92.36
  14. Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA – Pollution Index: 95.17
  15. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA – Pollution Index: 96.30
  16. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL – Pollution Index: 97.14
  17. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL – Pollution Index: 98.06
  18. Jacksonville, FL – Pollution Index: 98.06
  19. Jackson, MS – Pollution Index: 100.40
  20. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC – Pollution Index: 100.61
  21. Richmond, VA – Pollution Index: 100.71
  22. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL – Pollution Index: 102.73
  23. Charleston-North Charleston, SC – Pollution Index: 104.06
  24. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL – Pollution Index: 106.48
  25. Lexington-Fayette, KY – Pollution Index: 106.67

What city in the US has the worst air quality?

The most air-polluted city in the US for fine particles is Las Cruces, NM, which according to the EPA has a weighted annual mean concentration of 475 PM2.5. While Las Cruces has the worst air pollution, cities with high ozone should also be watched as well. The worst city for ozone is Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA, which has an EPA ozone design value of 0.107.

What US city has the cleanest air?

The city with the cleanest air in the US is Wilmington, NC, which has a weighted annual mean concentration 19 PM2.5. (Compare that to Las Cruces, which has 475 PM2.5.) Eureka-Arcata-Fortuna, CA, has the lowest scores for ozone, with an EPA design value of .043. Other cities with the best air quality include Burlington-South Burlington, VT, which has a low mean concentration of 20 PM2.5 and Winchester, VA-WV, which has 23 PM2.5.

Which city has the worst tap water in the US?

Somewhat ironically, the city with the motto of “Water Wealth Contentment Health” has some of the worst water in America: Modesto, CA, which has 16 contaminants detected above health guidelines in the water from the largest provider for the area. Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH; Fresno, CA; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX; and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX, also have some pretty contaminated tap water, according to the EWG.

Which city has the best tap water in the US?

The cities with the best tap water are Show Low, AZ, which has tap water with only one contaminant, Evansville, IN-KY, which has two containments, and Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI, which has two contaminants. They have the best drinking water in the US, in terms of contaminants.

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