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Air Pollution in the United States: What Are the Most Polluted Places in America in 2022? 

By June 10, 2022 No Comments
10 minutes to read

Air pollution is a serious public health issue worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that at least seven million premature deaths across the globe can be attributed to air pollution exposure, and 99% of the world’s population lives in an area with more pollution than the WHO suggests is safe for humans to be exposed to (1). 

Although the majority of these premature air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income nations, with countries in West Africa and South Asia experiencing the highest per-capita rates of deaths related to poor indoor air quality, many populations in the United States are at significant risk of health complications caused by air pollution (2). 

In this article, air quality experts from Camfil USA, a global leader in air filtration technology, research, and engineering, discuss the most polluted areas in the United States, based on data from the American Lung Association’s 2022 State of the Air Report (SOTA).

2022 State of the Air Report Findings Explained

Each year for the past twenty-three years, the American Lung Association has published its State of the Air Report (SOTA), which is an extensive analysis of American air quality based on air quality monitoring data from across the country. Air quality data — which was obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System (AQS) — was available in 932 counties, representing 263 million Americans (3). 

Importantly, many counties do not have any monitoring equipment, meaning that the pollution-related health risks for almost one million Americans, most of whom live in impoverished rural areas, are unknown.

The State of the Air report focuses on the two pollutants widely considered by public health experts and medical professionals to be the most dangerous: ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Particulate matter was tested in two ways: yearly average (representing chronic exposure) and highest 24-hour average (representing dangerous spikes in particulate matter exposure). 

Based on the data, each area is given a grade for each category it has data available for. 

“The ‘State of the Air’ 2022 report finds that despite decades of progress on cleaning up sources of air pollution, more than 40% of Americans—over 137 million people—are living in places with failing grades for unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone,” the American Lung Association commented (4), “This is 2.1 million more people breathing unhealthy air compared to last year’s report. Nearly 9 million more people were impacted by daily spikes in deadly particle pollution than reported last year.”

Furthermore, the report found that people of color were 3.6 times more likely to live in an area with a failing grade in all three categories. 

Most Polluted American Cities by Ozone Concentration

One of the three main criteria that the State of the Air Report examines is ozone levels in the air. Although atmospheric ozone (the “ozone layer”) is an essential layer of protection from harsh ultraviolet sunlight that allows life to flourish on earth, ground-level ozone presents short- and long-term health hazards.  

The ten areas with the highest levels of ozone pollution in 2022 were (5): 

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  2. Bakersfield, California
  3. Visalia, California
  4. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  5. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
  6. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, California
  7. Denver-Aurora, Colorado
  8. Houston-The Woodlands, Texas
  9. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  10. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah

Most Polluted American Cities by Year-Round PM2.5 Exposure

One of the leading environmental risks, according to the EPA, is particulate matter, which is sometimes also called particle pollution. Particulate matter is composed of a range of materials; any solid or liquid particles small and light enough to remain suspended in the air are considered particulate matter. 

Camfil’s article on the health risks associated with particulate matter explains the three main categories of particulate matter in greater detail: PM10, PM2.5, and PM1. The numbers indicate the size of particles in microns. Although everyday pollutants — such as dust, pollen, and pet dander, which may not seem harmful to most people — particulate matter harms our health when it enters our bodies through our lungs. 

These cities are the most polluted in terms of yearly average levels of particulate matter exposure:

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  3. Visalia, California
  4. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  5. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  6. Medford-Grants Pass, Oregon
  7. Fairbanks, Alaska
  8. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
  9. Chico, California
  10. El Centro, California

Most Polluted American Cities by 24-Hour PM2.5 Exposure

Although long-term exposure to particulate matter can cause serious heart and lung issues, particularly for those with other medical conditions (such as asthma, COPD, and lung disease), short-term, single instances of particulate matter are also linked with unpleasant respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, sneezing, watering eyes, a sore throat, dizziness, and headaches). 

These cities had the highest levels of particulate matter in a twenty-four hour period across the year:

  1. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  2. Bakersfield, California
  3. Fairbanks, Alaska
  4. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  5. Redding-Red Bluff, California
  6. Chico, California
  7. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  8. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  9. Yakima, Washington
  10. Visalia, California

About Camfil Clean Air Solutions

For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and on the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.

The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 31​ manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 35+ countries, and about 5,200 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and communities across the world. To discover how Camfil USA can help you to protect people, processes and the environment, visit us at 


Media Contact: 

Lynne Laake 

Camfil USA Air Filters 

T: 888.599.6620 


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