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  • Key Findings from the 2020 ALA State of the Air Report

    Many cities reported their highest levels of ozone and particle pollution ever. Is yours one of them?

    In this year’s ALA State of the Air report, many cities reported their highest levels of ozone and particle pollution ever. Is yours one of them?

    • According to the American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air report (PDF, 1.88 MB), nearly five in 10 people live in areas where the air is unhealthy—that’s approximately 150 million Americans or 45.8% of the population. Unfortunately, it’s also an increase from last year’s report.

      The latest findings reflect data from 2016 to 2018 on particle and ozone pollution across the United States.* The three years covered in this year’s report ranked among the five hottest years in history, with increasing high ozone days and widespread wildfires.

      The Clean Air Act and its impact

      2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, a landmark law that has driven dramatic improvements in outdoor air quality throughout its time. Despite its victories, however, many communities reported that air pollution still threatens their overall health. State of the Air 2020 reveals that setbacks to these key protections in place threaten to make air quality even worse in parts of the country. Here’s a breakdown of most polluted and cleanest cities:

      Top offenders from the 2020 report

      Los Angeles continues to remain the worst city for ozone pollution in the nation. The city has held that position for all, except one, of the report’s 21-year history. California dominates the list with Bakersfield as the most polluted for year-round particle pollution and the Fresno-Madera-Hanford area ranking as the city with the worst short-term particle pollution.

      The Southwest also continues to rank near the top of the list with three cities in Texas (Houston, El Paso and Dallas), two in Colorado (Denver and Fort Collins), and one offender in Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

      Outdoor air pollution has been found to move across state lines. For example, emissions generated in Chicago cross Lake Michigan into Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Fairfield County, Connecticut, remains the county with the highest ozone on the East Coast due to transported ozone and ozone precursors from upwind states.

      Cleanest cities from the 2020 report

      There are four cities that ranked on all three of the cleanest cities lists for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution. This means they had zero high ozone or high particle pollution days and are among the 25 cities with the lowest year-round particle levels. All four cities repeat their ranking on this list from last year:

      • Bangor, Maine
      • Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont
      • Honolulu, Hawaii
      • Wilmington, North Carolina

      People with greater risks

      Whether it’s age, a chronic illness or socioeconomic status, certain factors can put people at an even higher risk when airborne pollution is on the rise. This year’s report reveals the following stats in each at-risk group:

      2020 ALA State of the Air Report

      To see where your city or area ranks and learn what you can do to help reduce air pollution, check out more key findings.


      *2020 ALA State of the Air report (PDF, 1.88 MB)