Special Report

America's Most Polluted Housing Markets

10. Tulsa County, Okla.
> Score: 17.7
> Pct. of days with bad air: 7.57% (131st highest)
> Hazards per sq. mile: 2.39 (6th highest)
> Median home price: $47,734 (219th lowest)

Tulsa County is one of the most environmentally hazardous housing markets in the nation, largely because of the prevalence of former illegal drug labs. In fact, no county with a population of 100,000 or more had a greater concentration of former drug labs than Tulsa County, with 1.7 labs per square mile. Such drug labs pose a major man-made environmental hazard, especially when methamphetamine is being produced. The Justice Department noted that a meth lab can produce between five to seven pounds of hazardous waste for every pound of methamphetamine it manufactures. According to the National Parks Service, “abandoned meth labs are basically time bombs, waiting for the single spark that can ignite the contents of the lab.” However, drug labs are not the only problem in Tulsa County, which also scores poorly for the number of brownfields and designated polluters per square mile.

America’s Most (and Least) Educated States

9. Jackson County, Mo.
> Score: 18.6
> Pct. of days with bad air: 12.37% (15th highest)
> Hazards per sq. mile: 1.12 (23rd highest)
> Median home price: $44,493 (138th lowest)

Jackson County is one of several urban areas in Missouri with unhealthy levels of man-made environmental damage. The level of air pollution in Jackson County was determined to be harmful during more than 12% of the time, more than in all but a handful of counties reviewed. Although it’s not clear how environmental factors affect local economic growth, the prevalence of hazardous materials does have an negative effect on communities over time. Like many polluted areas, the Jackson housing market is characterized by high unemployment and low incomes. Roughly 7.5% of the county’s workforce was unemployed last year, and a typical household makes an estimated $44,500 annually.

8. Middlesex County, N.J.
> Score: 19.6
> Pct. of days with bad air: 1.65% (182nd lowest)
> Hazards per sq. mile: 1.28 (18th highest)
> Median home price: $78,427 (41st highest)

Middlesex is one of three New Jersey counties among the 10 worst markets for man-made pollution. All three counties are located in the New York City metro area. One major factor is the concentration of superfund sites named to the EPA’s National Priorities List. These include the Middlesex Sampling Plant, where nuclear tests were conducted, as well as numerous landfills and chemicals plants. Most of the area’s environmental hazards, outside of superfunds, consist of designated polluters. Middlesex County had 0.5 designated polluters — facilities included in the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory program — per square mile, more than in most of the markets reviewed.