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Climate and Environment

News Flash? LA’s Pollution Is So Bad It’s Ranked Worst For Major US Cities

The downtown skyline partially obscured by smoke from wildfires after sunset.
A view of the poor air quality stretching to downtown after a wildfire on September 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
(Mario Tama
Getty Images)
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There’s new data confirming what many Southern Californians may already know: Los Angeles has the worst air quality of any major city in the United States.

The company, IQAir, came to that conclusion in its latest World Air Quality Report even though the L.A. area saw a 6% decrease in pollution in 2021, compared to the prior year.

IQAir, which monitors global air quality and manufactures air filtration systems, analyzed data from more than 6,400 cities across the globe in its yearly report.

Glory Dolphin Hammes, the company’s CEO, said some of that pollution can be blamed on smoke from wildfires, but the vast majority of it ultimately comes from tailpipe emissions.

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“We actually need to, in some ways, just blame ourselves and the choices that we're making in terms of transportation,” Hammes said.

She adds that lifting some pandemic restrictions led to worse air quality, as more people returned to work and the economy gradually reopened.

“That really took back all of the gains that we may have had in improved air quality from [the] lockdowns, and just took it in the other direction,” she said.

L.A. isn't the only offender. Across the U.S. and Canada, six out the 15 most polluted regional cities are located in the Golden State, including California City, Three Rivers and Pollock Pines.

The World Health Organization last year cut its threshold for what's considered an “acceptable” level of pollution in half — and as a result, no major city in the world currently meets that standard.

What questions do you have about Southern California?

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