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Do Hold Your Breath: L.A. Is America's 6th Most Toxic City

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By Kevin Mathews/Special to LAistNow is not the time for Anglenos to breathe a sigh of relief. In fact, after Forbes released a report yesterday naming Los Angeles the sixth most toxic city in America, they might want to hold their breath altogether. While it is no secret that Los Angeles faces a pollution problem, many residents may not realize just how many toxic elements they are exposed to on a daily basis.

Los Angeles ranked better than Philadelphia (#1) and New York City (#4), but only slightly. To determine the placements of the largest American cities, Forbes used several factors including water quality, air quality, the amount of toxins currently being released into the air, and the Air Quality Index (AQI), a score furnished by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The AQI scores of Los Angeles were especially detrimental. A score of more than 100 hurts those who are most susceptible to respiratory hazards such as kids, seniors, and people with lung disorders. When the score goes significantly above 100, everyone is considered to be at risk. While the majority of cities never exceed an AQI score of 100, Los Angeles recorded fourteen days of this dangerous air in 2009.

The water quality is another cause for concern. Arsenic, nitrate, and methane are among the toxic elements and compounds found in the Los Angeles water supply.

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Those people looking to escape to a place deemed less poisonous might have to leave the state entirely. Los Angeles was just one of four California cities that placed in the list’s top ten, with Bakersfield, Fresno, and Riverside-San Bernardino placing second, third, and tenth respectively. The primary reason for California’s shoddy showing is the state’s widespread smog.