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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The Most Polluted Major Cities in America Transcript

Top 100 Most Populated Cities by Their Pollution Index

Rank Cities INDEX
1 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 206.70
2 Modesto, CA 202.08
3 Fresno, CA 201.76
4 Bakersfield, CA 195.60
5 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 195.17
6 Stockton-Lodi, CA 161.69
7 El Paso, TX 157.00
8 Albuquerque, NM 156.96
9 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 156.71
10 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 155.11
11 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 151.30
12 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 149.96
13 Wichita, KS 149.47
14 Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA 148.85
15 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 148.42
16 St. Louis, MO 146.12
17 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL 144.41
18 Provo-Orem, UT 142.07
19 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE 140.87
20 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 140.78
21 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 139.82
22 Salt Lake City, UT 139.34
23 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 138.73
24 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 136.72
25 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 136.31
26 Santa Rosa, CA 136.21
27 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 135.46
28 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 135.26
29 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 134.05
30 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 133.78
31 Boise City, ID 131.97
32 Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA 130.58
33 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA 129.06
34 Austin-Round Rock, TX 128.95
35 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 128.37
36 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 127.42
37 Kansas City, MO-KS 127.26
38 Cincinnati, OH 126.91
39 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN 125.15
40 Columbus, OH 123.56
41 Oklahoma City, OK 123.56
42 Raleigh, NC 123.52
43 Greensboro-High Point, NC 123.31
44 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 122.71
45 Tucson, AZ 122.33
46 Augusta-Richmond County, GA 121.72
47 Pittsburgh, PA 121.56
48 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 120.50
49 New Haven-Milford, CT 120.45
50 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC 120.10
51 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA 119.66
52 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA 119.34
53 Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton, PA 117.37
54 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 117.19
55 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 116.87
56 Columbia, SC 116.55
57 Dayton, OH 115.39
58 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 115.14
59 Worcester, MA 115.09
60 Springfield, MA 114.74
61 Knoxville, TN 113.85
62 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 113.11
63 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA 111.96
64 Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 111.54
65 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH 111.23
66 Winston-Salem, NC 111.21
67 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY 111.13
68 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 111.06
69 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ 110.59
70 Rochester, NY 110.39
71 Madison, WI 110.39
72 Tulsa, OK 110.30
73 Baton Rouge, LA 109.75
74 Lancaster, PA 108.82
75 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 107.38
76 Lexington-Fayette, KY 106.67
77 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 106.48
78 Charleston-North Charleston, SC 104.06
79 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 102.73
80 Richmond, VA 100.71
81 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC 100.61
82 Jackson, MS 100.40
83 Jacksonville, FL 98.06
84 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 98.06
85 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 97.14
86 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 96.30
87 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 95.17
88 Providence-Warwick, RI 92.36
89 Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN 91.97
90 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 91.93
91 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 91.38
92 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 90.98
93 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 88.18
94 Memphis, TN 87.50
95 Colorado Springs, CO 86.37
96 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 85.47
97 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 85.14
98 Honolulu, HI 83.18
99 Portland-South Portland, ME 82.54
100 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 82.16

25 Cities With the Highest Pollution Indexes

RANK CITY 2010 Population PM2.5 Tap Water Contaminants Ozone Design Values INDEX
1 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 4,224,851 299 7 0.107 206.70
2 Modesto, CA 514,453 112 16 0.084 202.08
3 Fresno, CA 930,450 164 13 0.092 201.76
4 Bakersfield, CA 839,631 203 11 0.09 195.60
5 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 4,192,887 416 6 0.075 195.17
6 Stockton-Lodi, CA 685,306 159 9 0.077 161.69
7 El Paso, TX 804,123 104 11 0.071 157.00
8 Albuquerque, NM 887,077 126 11 0.066 156.96
9 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 1,951,269 119 10 0.074 156.71
10 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 3,095,313 67 10 0.084 155.11
11 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 5,920,416 80 10 0.077 151.30
12 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 823,318 133 8 0.077 149.96
13 Wichita, KS 630,919 129 10 0.064 149.47
14 Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA 527,753 224 7 0.062 148.85
15 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 6,426,214 38 12 0.07 148.42
16 St. Louis, MO 2,787,701 125 9 0.068 146.12
17 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL 9,461,105 108 9 0.07 144.41
18 Provo-Orem, UT 526,810 88 9 0.072 142.07
19 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE 5,965,343 69 9 0.075 140.87
20 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 2,142,508 73 9 0.074 140.78
21 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 597,159 107 8 0.072 139.82
22 Salt Lake City, UT 1,087,873 87 8 0.076 139.34
23 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 12,828,837 111 5 0.09 138.73
24 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 774,769 49 12 0.055 136.72
25 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 1,836,911 74 9 0.069 136.31

5 Cities With the Worst Air Quality

Rank City PM2.5 Weighted Annual Mean Concentration
1 Las Cruces, NM 475
2 El Centro, CA 425
3 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 416
4 Yuma, AZ 302
5 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 299

5 Cities With the Most Contaminated Tap Water

Rank City Contaminants Detected Above Health Guidelines (Largest Provider)
1 Modesto, CA 16
2 Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH 14
3 Fresno, CA 13
4 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 12
5 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 12

5 Cities With the Highest EPA Ozone Design Values

Rank City EPA Ozone Design Values (8-Hour)
1 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 0.107
2 Fresno, CA 0.092
3 Bakersfield, CA 0.09
4 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 0.089
5 Visalia-Porterville, CA 0.084

Source:

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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