You might be surprised to learn that the place with the most polluted air in the U.S. isn’t a big city, but a small town in California.
This month, The Guardian released an analysis in conjunction with a group of researchers from several institutions, including the University of Washington, to rank the neighborhoods across the contiguous U.S. that have the worst air pollution.
Julian Marshall, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Washington, told The Guardian that the analysis shows that neighborhoods with the worst air quality were predominantly Black and Hispanic.
“What we’re seeing here is segregation,” Marshall said. “You have segregation of people and segregation of pollution.”
The data in this analysis was recorded between 2011 and 2015 and even though that was eight years ago, researchers say pollution patterns tend to remain steady over several years.
No. 1 worst place to live in the U.S. if you want clean air: Bakersfield, California
Bakersfield, California, is in the state’s Central Valley and about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.
It has the most unhealthy air in the U.S., and a lot of that is thanks to the location. Kern County, where Bakersfield is located, produces the most oil in California.
The area is most known for production in natural gas, mining, and petroleum refining. All of these industries have contributed to the worsening air pollution.
According to The Guardian, the entire region has failed to meet the Clean Air Act’s target for most of the last 25 years.
10 worst places to live in the U.S. if you want clear air
- Bakersfield area, California
- South Los Angeles
- Chicago’s South and West Sides
- North-west Indiana
- Central Indianapolis
- Houston, Texas
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Central Pennsylvania
- Central Atlanta, Georgia
- Central Birmingham, Alabama
Los Angeles, specifically South Los Angeles, ranked second on the list. The area has many landlocked neighborhoods that are surrounded by a system of freeway interchanges, railyards, and warehouses.
Residents of small cities like Compton, Maywood, and Paramount, are subjected to breathing that polluted air.
Compared to people who live across town in the affluent Bel Air neighborhood, South Los Angeles residents breathe 50% more polluted air, according to the analysis.
The region that rounded out the top three was Chicago’s south and west sides. The neighborhoods in these areas include Back of the Yards and Riverdale, which are both areas that have been used to store toxic materials.
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