These 8 States Have the Worst Air Quality

Which are the most polluted states in the US?

According to a recent study, more than 40% of Americans live in places with bad air quality. While most US states have good air pollution levels, some have dangerous amounts of harmful substances that pollute the air.

If these states don’t make efforts to somehow improve their air quality, residents with respiratory infections and other health conditions may suffer the consequences.

When measuring air quality, experts track five main air pollutants: airborne particles, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. The first two are the most threatening to human health.

Airborne particles can come from atmospheric chemical reactions or construction sites, wildfires, and the burning of fossil fuels. Ground-level ozone is found in smog and is specifically dangerous to those with asthma and respiratory diseases.

According to experts, dangerous pollutants can affect the lungs and the bloodstream, shortening people’s lifespans. Therefore, improving air quality is extremely important and can help avoid health issues that many susceptible Americans may face. To raise awareness, we’ve rounded up the most polluted states in the US. Check this out!

most polluted states
Photo by Zack Frank from Shutterstock

8. District of Columbia

As the capital of the US, Washington, D.C., is one of the most polluted states in our country. Wood-burning stoves in D.C. residencies seem to be the main culprit, as they create 63% of winter air particle pollution in the city. The surrounding area also deals with wildfire occurrences, which also release particles into the air.

Moreover, according to experts, urban fires within the city release more dangerous particles than rural fires because urban fires burn waste and plastic. Washington, D.C., also struggles with a high amount of ozone pollution, which produces smog. Air particles, dust, and the burning of fossil fuels all contribute to the city’s worsening air quality.

You likely won’t want to live here (sorry, Washingtonians!).

7. Maryland

As one of the most polluted states in the US, Maryland suffers from soot pollution and intense smog. Although the state’s air quality has improved in the last three decades, it still ranks higher among the smoggiest suburbs in the country.

Fortunately, ozone pollution in Maryland has improved considerably, but experts warn that smog and air particle pollution still affect people who live here. Fossil fuel emissions are the main contributors to the pollutants that affect the air quality. These emissions come from vehicles, industrial boilers, and electric utilities.

In other words, it’s a good thing that Maryland has been fighting against air pollution, but recent studies still rank it high among the most polluted states in the US.

6. Tennessee

As one of the most polluted states in the US, Tennessee is another place you won’t want to live, especially if you have asthma or another type of respiratory condition.

Red Bank is the city with the worst air quality in the state, and officials have urged it to take measures toward reducing its emissions. Most of the air pollution in Tennessee comes from combustion sites, including vehicle emissions.

The state also extracts and transports large amounts of sand, gravel, and marble. The industry requires trucks and other means of transportation for goods on the roadways. These large vehicles require diesel fuel and emit more harmful pollutants when compared to the average. Other Tennessee pollution sources consist of factories, forest fires, construction sites, mining sites, and power plants.

polluted states
Photo by 4kclips from Shutterstock

5. Indiana

Indiana also ranks high on the list of the most polluted states in the US. According to a recent study, Bloomington is Indiana’s city with the worst air quality. Population, vehicle emissions, and energy consumption have all contributed to the state’s awful air quality.

However, in the past few years, there has been a 74% decrease in six major air pollutants, meaning that the state has made significant efforts to improve its air quality.

Ground-level ozone is also a major issue in Indiana, but it’s not necessarily due to emissions. As one of the most polluted states, this one has a high level of ozone due to natural decomposition in its habitats and forests. This being said, natural ozone will always remain in the state.

4. Alabama

With a population of 4.8 million people, Alabama affects all of them with its bad air quality. Cities with the highest amounts of pollutants include Hoover, Talladega, and Birmingham. Air particle pollution has considerably decreased in these cities as of 2020, but Alabama is still one of the most polluted states in the US.

Air particle pollution and ground-level ozone are the main culprits for that. Cities with the least amount of ground-level ozone in the state include Gadsden, Scottsboro, Ozark, and a few others. Some cities decreased their pollution and recorded great levels of air particle pollution for the entirety of a year. Some examples include Daphne, Mobile, and Fairhope.

Read on to discover the three most polluted states in the country!

3. Georgia

As one of the most polluted states in the country, Georgia’s industries include transportation, textile manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and more. The vast number of major industries leads to a high amount of air pollution. Large population numbers also play a key role in the state’s ongoing pollution.

According to experts, emissions from vehicles are one of the major culprits for the bad air quality in Georgia. For one, car ownership is on the rise, which means that more dangerous pollutants are released as people take to the roads. There’s also the transportation of goods by large vehicles, which is necessary to keep Georgia’s industries running.

The state’s bad air quality translates to more lung diseases being diagnosed among the residents compared to the national average.

polluted states
Photo by Sean Pavone from Shutterstock

2. Ohio

Ohio has had a bad reputation for having a wide variety of industries for decades. Truck transportation and manufacturing emit pollutants at a consistent rate here, making it one of the most polluted states in the US. Furthermore, vehicle emissions also contribute to the high pollution.

Smoke from factories, power plants, and forest fires is a major pollution source too. During cold winters, the demand for electricity and heat in Ohio residences increases, resulting in the use of high amounts of coal and natural gas to power homes.

Last but not least, the level of air particles is a culprit too, and they result primarily from extraction and construction. Both activities stir up dust, dirt, and minerals within the earth that are eventually released into the atmosphere.

1. Utah

According to experts and recent research studying the most polluted states in the US, Utah has the worst air quality in the country. Much of the pollution here is centered around Salt Lake City, whose awful air quality results in about 450 deaths per year.

Air pollution in Utah is mainly due to car emissions. Heating in homes and companies is also a main contributor to pollution in the state. Surprisingly, industry emissions account for the least amount of overall emissions in Salt Lake City, Utah. The city, along with many others in the state, suffers from temperature inversions that trap pollutants in the lowest layer of the atmosphere.

If you live in one of these states, make sure you at least have an air purifier in your house. Here’s one that does a great job of removing indoor pollutants.

If you liked our article on the worst polluted states in the US, you may also want to read 11 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality at Home.

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