Air is vital to the survival and health of the planet. Unfortunately, air all over the world is at risk of becoming contaminated with particulates from a number of sources, including: automobile emissions, industry, energy production, urban development, and dust, to name a few. These particulates can have serious consequences on human and environmental health that are not always immediately obvious. Polluted air has been linked to a number of health effects ranging from asthma to cardiovascular disease and from allergies to lung cancer. Since learning of the link between air pollution and negative health effects, many governments around the world have attempted to regulate and improve local air quality. The US, in particular, has played a large role in creating regulations and defining acceptable levels of particulates in order to have clean air. This article takes a closer look at which cities in the US have the cleanest air quality according to year-round particle pollution levels.
US Cities with the Cleanest Air
Cheyenne, Wyoming shares the number 1 ranking of cities with the cleanest year-round air quality with Farmington, New Mexico. Cheyenne has a population of 97,121 and an average annual annual particulate matter (PM) level of 4.1. Some experts believe it is the city’s small size that helps it maintain a higher air quality; fewer people means fewer cars on the roads and less vehicle emissions. However, a small population size is not always an indicator of clean air quality.
Farmington, New Mexico shares its ranking of cleanest air in the country. This city has a population size of 118,737 and an average annual PM of 4.1. This low rating comes despite the fact that the community receives its electricity from a coal-fired power plant, the San Juan Generating Station, which has been under constant observation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Critics claim that Navajo communities located nearby receive the bulk of its pollution. Management of the plant is currently considering shutting it down.
The second best air quality in the US can be found in Casper, Wyoming. This city has a population of 82,178 and a PM average of 4.6. In 2012, the EPA cited a local energy company, Kinder Morgan, with a fine for violating the federal Clean Air Act. Since then, the company hasn’t received another fine, indicating an improvement in its emissions levels.
The chart published below offers a look at the top 20 US cities with the cleanest air.
How Cities Keep the Air Clean
Following the science-based guidelines set forth by the federal Clean Air Act, companies have been actively trying to reduce air pollution. Additionally, many non-profits and local level governments have initiated public education campaigns to promote clean air. These campaigns have included: encouraging the use of public transportation to reduce the number of private vehicles on the road, weatherproofing homes to decrease the need for heating during the winter, and planting trees around the city to help clean the air. Other cities provide daily air quality reports, suggesting days to remain indoors or use less energy, while others have installed air cleaning technology throughout urban areas. Maintaining clean air quality requires a combined effort that begins at a national level and ends in private homes.