A New Study Says L.A. Is the Third Worst City in the U.S. for Lung Health

The results aren’t exactly a breath of fresh air for Californians

Los Angeles is the third worst city in the country for lung health, a recent study finds. The top four cities—Visalia, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, and Fresno—are all in California, while the fifth is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

The study from the Mesothelioma Center is based on an analysis of the top 50 cities with the highest and lowest air particle pollution rates, according to the American Lung Association’s 2021 State of the Air report. 

The research team identified data points to analyze for each city, including the percentage of current adult smokers and state rankings for asbestos-related deaths. As part of this data analysis, they also averaged yearly counts of lung and bronchus cancers per capita. Because existing lung health issues often result in greater complications for COVID-19, the researchers also connected lung health to the number of COVID-19 deaths. 

According to the report, the four cities in California are prone to wildfires, which has severely increased air particle pollution. The study describes the “heavy, hazy, brown layer of pollution that hovers over the major metropolitan area” in L.A., and cites trucking and railway transportation at the Port of Los Angeles as a big contributor to L.A.’s poor air quality.

The other cities in California lie along the San Joaquin Valley, which is known for agricultural production. The report says that emissions from the transportation of food and produce are exacerbated by the surrounding mountain ranges, which trap air pollutants within the area. The negative environmental impacts of traffic along Route 99 and the 5 freeway make the region especially susceptible to amplified pollution. 

On the other hand, the best cities for lung health are Maui, Hawaii’i; Honolulu, Hawaii’i;  Cheyenne, Wyoming; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Burlington, Vermont. 

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