America’s Ten Dirtiest Cities 26 Sep 12

Travel + Leisure recently released its annual report on the United States’ dirtiest cities. Here they are in order of increasing filthiness:

10. Houston, TX

Houston may not be dirty to look at, but its air quality is poor enough to get it an unwelcome spot on this list. The American Lung Association rates it as one of the most ozone-polluted cities in the country (comparable to Los Angeles) — thanks in part to the major oil industries that drive its economy.


9. Memphis, TN

Common with many tourist towns, it seems the main pollutant plaguing Memphis is trash. Still, the city has moved down five slots since last year’s list, so they are making improvements.


8. Miami, FL

Most of the filth in Miami is found in its soil and, no, we’re not talking about dirt (if only). In fact, the dirt is filled with toxic chemicals — particularly polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbos (PAHS). PAHS come from the burning of fossil fuels, and in Miami’s case, from driving in cars. With a population of over 2.5 million people and over 38 million yearly tourists, there are a lot of drivers on the road and a shortage of public transportation.


7. Dallas, TX

Although Dallas has slightly better air quality than Houston, voters still consider it the dirtiest Texas city (possibly because of lack of green spaces to balance it out). Smog is a common problem and the city has repeatedly exceeded federal limits on ozone.


6. Philadelphia, PA

Philly is also on the American Lung Association’s list for top 10 worst regions for air pollution. In addition to smog and particulates in the air, there’s also quite a bit of trash on the ground, which has many visitors and locals describing the streets as “dirty.”


5. Atlanta, GA

Industries topped with smoke stacks, nearby chemical plants, and crowded urban areas all contribute to Atlanta’s litter and toxicity. The city has banned smoking in public parks to eliminate cigarette trash, and while that’s a start, it seems Atlanta has bigger issues to tackle.


4. Los Angeles, CA

Most people can’t say the word “smog” without thinking of L.A. and rightly so as the city regularly tops the American Lung Association’s charts for the places with the worst air pollution. However, the City of Angels must be given some credit as air pollutants have steadily dropped since the 1960s (primarily because of lower-emission vehicles).


3. Baltimore, MD

Unfortunately, a city that’s home to so much U.S. history is becoming more notable for the garbage littering the streets. If looking at grime wasn’t bad enough, it seems it’s also attracting vermin as county officials report an increase in rat complaints.


2. New Orleans, LA

New Orleans suffers from its own share of industrial pollutants, and when you add to that hurricane debris, festival and tourist trash, and regular urban rubbish, it’s easy to see how this city landed on the number two spot.


1. New York City, NY

NYC just can’t seem to shake its trashy image. Although it was in the number 5 position last year, it’s bounced back up to number one. The city has somewhat strict littering fines (up to ten days in jail), but it’s still no match for the sheer number of vehicles, people, and buildings emitting waste. In fact, NYC has literally run out of room to hold its own trash and now ships it out via barge or train by the tons (around 12,000 tons per day).