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54 American cities with dangerous ozone conditions

  • 54 American cities with dangerous ozone conditions

    Whether you call it ozone or smog, it's an invisible gas with a big impact. Ozone pollution, created when sunlight hits gases produced by emitters like cars, factories, and fires, can cause serious damage to human health. It is poisonous to our lungs and can cause asthma, irritation, inflammation of the airway, and more. It is especially damaging to older people and children. Ozone pollution is often concentrated near lower-income communities. Hot places and places with few public transit options also have more ozone pollution. Clean, breathable air is necessary for survival, but many people in areas with high ozone pollution struggle with the effects. Areas with high ozone pollution often have higher rates of asthma, and sometimes even shorter life expectancy and higher rates of birth defects.

    The United States has made huge strides on ozone pollution since the establishment of the Clean Air Act in 1963, but in recent years, ozone has inched back up, especially in warmer regions. That is partially due to climate change, which is making summers hotter and therefore increasing sunlight that can combine with gases to produce ground-level ozone. The Trump administration has also rolled back regulations on emissions and fuel efficiency across sectors, which has resulted in widespread controversy and even legal battles.

    To examine ozone conditions in the U.S., Stacker consulted Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization that compiles research and helps other news outlets report on climate change. In their July 2019 air quality research brief, Climate Central researchers identified 54 cities with dangerous ozone conditions. These cities were identified because they either had a large number of unhealthy ozone days over the past four years in terms of pure count (greater than 20 days total), a continuous increase in unhealthy ozone days over at least three of the past four years, or more unhealthy ozone days in a single recent year (2015 to 2018) than their past (2000 to 2014) average. Stacker’s story lists these 54 cities according to their annual average of unhealthy ozone days over the past four years (2015 to 2018), with ties broken by the number of unhealthy ozone days these cities faced in 2018.

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  • #54. Portland, OR

    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 1
    - Unhealthy ozone days in 2018: 2
    - Total unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 4
    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2000-2014: 0.5 (#54 highest)

    Although Portland does not have a significant number of unhealthy days, it has increased to two a year; in 2014, the city averaged only half a day a year. Like much of the West, Portland’s air quality is significantly impacted by wildfire, which increases ozone as well as particulate matter in the air.

  • #53. Terre Haute, IN (tie)

    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 1.5
    - Unhealthy ozone days in 2018: 3
    - Total unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 6
    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2000-2014: 8.2 (#39 highest)

    The Midwest has made major progress on air quality, but during the Trump Administration emissions have started to crawl back up. Much of Indiana had an upward trend in ozone days in 2018, with Terre Haute experiencing the worst conditions in the state.

  • #53. Sioux Falls, SD (tie)

    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 1.5
    - Unhealthy ozone days in 2018: 3
    - Total unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 6
    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2000-2014: 1.1 (#53 highest)

    Air quality in South Dakota, while generally good, has suffered due to oil and gas activities in the region. Wildfire smoke also causes some issues for SD. Although the state does not suffer wildfires generally, smoke blows in from other states.

  • #51. Spokane, WA

    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 1.5
    - Unhealthy ozone days in 2018: 4
    - Total unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 6
    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2000-2014: 2.1 (#51 highest)

    Spokane becomes blanketed in smoke every summer from wildfires in Canada and in other parts of the Northwest. In August 2018, the city had the worst air quality in the nation for a day. City officials encourage residents to keep pets inside, wear masks, and limit exposure, but the lack of air quality is a significant public health crisis.

  • #50. Miami, FL

    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 1.75
    - Unhealthy ozone days in 2018: 2
    - Total unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 7
    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2000-2014: 4.0 (#50 highest)

    Air quality is not the largest climate justice issue in Florida — sea level rise is the more common issue discussed in the region. But smog is still an issue in Miami, due in large part to vehicles, cruise ships, and other transport emissions.

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  • #49. Peoria, IL

    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 2
    - Unhealthy ozone days in 2018: 3
    - Total unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 8
    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2000-2014: 7.1 (#42 highest)

    Peoria County has a coal plant, the E.D Edwards plant, which has polluted its air. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club have been fighting to close the plant since 2013, and a federal judge is reviewing a proposal to close the plant and provide funding for green jobs in the area.

  • #48. Rochester, MN

    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 2.25
    - Unhealthy ozone days in 2018: 4
    - Total unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 9
    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2000-2014: 6.9 (#43 highest)

    Olmsted County, the county where Rochester is located, has one of the dirtiest trash incinerators in the country. Although the facility has improved, it is a large source of emissions in the surrounding region.

  • #47. Tampa Area, FL

    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 2.75
    - Unhealthy ozone days in 2018: 4
    - Total unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 11
    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2000-2014: 16.3 (#29 highest)

    Tampa has fairly good air quality, compared to many other urban areas. However, Tampa suffers from poor transit infrastructure, and vehicle emissions have impacted the area’s air, which was ruled the worst in the state of Florida in 2015.

  • #46. Colorado Springs, CO

    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 3
    - Unhealthy ozone days in 2018: 7
    - Total unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 12
    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2000-2014: 8 (#40 highest)

    Oil and gas activity has increased significantly in Colorado in the last 10 years, which has hurt the state’s air quality. Wildfires and vehicle emissions have also increased ozone issues in Colorado.

  • #45. Newark, NJ

    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 3.25
    - Unhealthy ozone days in 2018: 4
    - Total unhealthy ozone days in 2015-2018: 13
    - Annual average of unhealthy ozone days in 2000-2014: 4.5 (#47 highest)

    An incinerator in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark is under investigation by several environmental groups because of the pink smoke (an indicator of iodine used in the medical industry) that it releases into the air. The Ironbound neighborhood is a working class, diverse neighborhood that is one of the most polluted in the nation. The incinerator burns nearly 3,000 pounds of trash per day, and residents are concerned that the facility is releasing other harmful medical pollutants into the air.

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