Again: California dominates list for worst air pollution
April 18, 2017
• Pollution spikes in Central Valley
• “There are too many areas where residents are breathing dirty air”
The cheer “we’re number one!” is unlikely to echo through the streets of Bakersfield or in the cities of Visalia, Porterville and Hanford, but the four Central Valley cities are ranked “number one” on lists of U.S. cities with the worst air pollution.
Bakersfield tops the list for short-term particle pollution, and the neighboring cities of Visalia, Porterville and Hanford hold the top spot on the list of the cities with the nation’s worst year-round particle pollution.
Bakersfield ranks second only to Los Angeles on a third list: worst smog, also known as ozone pollution.
Here are the lists, as compiled by the American Lung Association for its “State of the Air 2017” report released Tuesday night, showing where California metros rank:
Worst Ozone Pollution in the U.S.
1. Los Angeles-Long Beach
7. San Diego-Carlsbad
Worst Short-Term Particle Pollution
2. (tie) Fresno-Madera and Visalia-Porterville-Hanford
6. Stockton-San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland
9. Los Angeles-Long Beach
Worst Year-Round Particle Pollution
4. Stockton-San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland
5. Los Angeles-Long Beach
7. El Centro
10. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles
Overall, the annual report says California has the dubious distinction of being home to the majority of the Top 10 cities with ozone and particle pollution in the United States.
“More than 90 percent of Californians live in areas with unhealthy air at some point during the year, a serious public health concern at a time when the federal government is considering rolling back clean air protections,” says the Lung Association.
The report finds that over the past year:
• Continued setbacks in the fight against particle pollution (also known as soot), especially in the San Joaquin Valley.
• Four of the eight San Joaquin Valley counties showed increases in the number of unhealthy days for particle pollution. Visalia and Stockton had their worst years yet.
• Bakersfield, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Sacramento saw increases in unhealthy days for particle pollution.
• Year-round levels of particle pollution also increased in Bakersfield, the San Francisco Bay Area, Visalia, and San Luis Obispo, which failed to meet the national standard for year-round particle pollution for the first time.
“Our state’s air quality continues to hit unhealthy levels each year, putting Californians at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma, COPD, and lung cancer,” says Olivia Diaz-Lapham, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in California. “We are seeing continued improvement in parts of the state, but there are too many areas where residents are breathing dirty air and we must work to reduce the sources of air pollution.”
California’s most populous metro area, Los Angeles, continues to improve, posting its lowest number of unhealthy days for ozone pollution and lowest levels of year-round particle pollution. But the region still leads the nation in unhealthy days for ozone pollution, followed by Bakersfield and the Fresno-Madera area.
Bakersfield topped the national list for the number of unhealthy days for short-term particle pollution and came in second for unhealthy days for ozone pollution and year-round particle pollution levels.
There is some good news. The Lung Association says:
• Significant progress in the fight against ozone (also known as smog). Eight cities: Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Visalia, Modesto-Merced, Sacramento, El Centro, San Jose-San Francisco and San Luis Obispo, had the fewest average unhealthy days for ozone pollution in the 18-year history of the report.
• Salinas recognized as one of the cleanest cities. Salinas landed a spot on two lists of the cleanest cities in the U.S. thanks to zero unhealthy ozone days and one of the lowest year-round particle pollution levels.
• In California and nationwide, the number of unhealthy days for ozone has decreased, thanks, says the Lung Association, to the success of the federal Clean Air Act as well as state and local air pollution control programs that clean up major sources of emissions.
The State of the Air 2017 report is based on air quality monitoring data collected in 2013-2015, the most recent years available. The report focuses on ozone and particle pollution, as they are the most widespread forms of air pollution threatening public health.