Air pollution map of the USA – which states suffer from the worst air quality?

Despite many efforts, air pollution remains one of the most significant environmental issues in the USA. Which types do the Americans struggle with the most, and in which areas does the problem intensify?

Since recently, the USA is one of the leaders in the green transformation. President Biden has already proven to be a staunch supporter of the innovations in this field, announcing a program that is supposed to halve US carbon emissions by 2030. However, Americans are still struggling to breathe clean air in 2021. The problem is particularly visible on both coasts, where smog is a recurring phenomenon. How is air pollution distributed in the United States?

Which cities in the US struggle with air pollution the most?

When looking at the air pollution map of the United States (check, for example,, you may notice an interesting pattern. The more north you look, the cleaner the air gets; also, the coast is much more polluted than the interior of the country. The explanation is simple – the coastal population is much bigger and much more concentrated than in the other parts of the US.

The smog in the Los Angeles area is so notorious that the city’s name has even served for naming the type of pollution. The Los Angeles smog is another name for the phosphorous type, and it’s not unique to this famous metropolis. In fact, it appears all over the world – from Sao Paulo to New Delhi. What differentiates it? The phosphorous smog is symptomatic of the subtropical zones, where the amplitude of temperatures is relatively steady.

Why does California struggle with the highest air pollution rates?

Contrary to common belief, New York doesn’t struggle with air pollution to that extent. Yes – it often appears in the rankings of the most polluted cities in the US, but it never reaches the first position. California always takes the lead, with Fresno, Bakersfield, and LA in the infamous top3. Why? It’s a combination of a few factors:

  • high population density
  • mountainous surroundings, which stop the pollutants from spreading with the wind
  • the car culture
  • a warm climate that creates favourable conditions for the phosphorus smog to appear

What are the most problematic types of air pollution in the US?

The Global Burden of Disease study points out that exposure to air pollution is the ninth-largest risk factor for premature deaths in the United States. Like in most developed countries worldwide, the biggest problem in the US is fine particulate matter. Its influence on the human body can be severe, since the particles are small enough to get into our bloodstream. This way, they reach the organs, accumulating there and, in some cases, causing dysfunctions and cancers.

What are the strategies for fighting air pollution in the US?

The US has recently entered a new path after a few years of Donald Trump’s conservative politics. Many investments are supposed to increase energy production from renewable sources, with a strong emphasis on solar. Biden’s plan also promises investments in electric public transport and charging stations for electric vehicles. Meanwhile, the finding for the coal-based investments will be cut off. The goal is ambitious – going 100% carbon-free in terms of energy production by 2035.

All these changes are aimed at climate change, but they could also result in better air quality. If you want to follow the current situation in the US pollution-wise, visit the air pollution map.