This Is America's Dirtiest City

There was a time three decades ago when some of America’s cities were choked by smog. Clean air rules have helped improve that, but the effects have been limited. Recently, Los Angeles posted the most smog-filled day in 30 years. Other conditions that lend to dirty cities are rats, which continue to infect New York City. They plague America’s largest cities, despite years of attempts to exterminate them. Garbage is another problem. Occasionally, sanitation workers go on strike and there is no garbage pickup at all.

For understandable reasons, the dirtiest cities tend to be the most crowded ones. But determining which cities are worse than others depends on different factors, such as the level of air pollution caused by local industries. A city might rank high on effective waste disposal but get low marks due to poor living conditions.

To identify America’s dirtiest city, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a ranking created by LawnStarter, a lawn care startup that frequently conducts research into city and state amenities. The site compared the country’s 200 largest cities across 20 key metrics, encompassing indicators of pollution, living conditions, resident satisfaction with city cleanliness and infrastructure factors to assign each one an overall score.

To that score, to pick a list of finalists, 24/7 Tempo added each municipality’s average daily PM2.5 (the concentration of particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers) per cubic meter of air, drawn from the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. Total population is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey five-year estimates.

America’s dirty is Palmdale, California. Here are the details:

  • LawnStarter score: 55.3
  • Resident satisfaction with city cleanliness: seventh worst out of 200 cities
  • Average daily PM2.5 (county): 12.0 micrograms per cubic meter
  • Population: 156,293

Click here to see all of America’s 50 dirtiest cities.

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