EPA Lists Most Polluted Areas in the U.S.

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The U.S. EPA has designated 31 different areas that do not meet standards for air pollution based on monitoring from the last three years, with 18 different states making the list. California and Pennsylvania were cited for seven different areas each.

The list is updated every year based on data from the previous three years. The good news is that the number of affected areas decreased from 57 last year, and the drop in overall areas means 91 different counties are now in compliance. This year’s list did not add a single county to the nonattainment list.

For the first time in three years, Chicago was removed from the EPA's list of most polluted areas. Photo: Flickr/urbanfeel

For the first time in three years, Chicago was removed from the EPA's list of most polluted areas. Photo: Flickr/urbanfeel

In what may come as a surprise, the list of affected areas was not largely dictated by population. Of the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., only 12 do not meet the EPA’s pollution standards. This year, the third largest metropolitan area, Chicago, was removed from the list for the first time.

The EPA will work with the 120 counties that are still in violation to reduce pollution and maintain clean air. Nationwide, monitored levels of fine particle pollution have fallen 19 percent in the last nine years.

How You Can Help

While it’s true that many of these pollutants come from power plants and factories, items around the house also contribute to air quality. Products including cleaners and paint contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to the formation of smog.

California is looking to address this by limiting the amount of VOCs in consumer products, and many of these products have natural alternatives that already limit VOC emissions.

Another option is to reduce the amount you drive, as cars are a leading cause of air pollution. Many of the areas listed, including New York and Los Angeles, have access to multiple forms of public transportation.

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Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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