California Claims 7 Spots Among the 20 ‘Dirtiest’ Cities in the U.S., Study Reveals

A recent study has revealed that one of the largest cities in the South has surpassed an urban East Coast area to claim the title of the nation’s “dirtiest” city.

LawnStarter, a lawn care provider, conducted an evaluation of over 150 major cities in the U.S., focusing on pollution levels, living conditions, infrastructure, and resident satisfaction. The study utilized data from various federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Census Bureau, Department of Energy, and Environmental Protection Agency.

Houston emerged as the top-ranked “dirtiest” city, attributed to elevated pollution levels, a significant cockroach infestation, and greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial facilities. Researchers also referenced a 2022 report from the nonprofit media organization Grist, which highlighted severe violations of EPA safety guidelines by some of Houston’s petrochemical facilities.

In April, the EPA mandated that chemical plants along the Texas Gulf Coast and “Louisiana’s Cancer Alley” must reduce toxic air pollution to safeguard public health. Despite these challenges, some Houston residents expressed higher satisfaction with the cleanliness of their city compared to residents of 33 other large cities.

The top five cities on the list include Newark, New Jersey (formerly holding the “dirtiest” title); San Bernardino, California; Detroit, Michigan; and Jersey City, New Jersey. The full top 20 list is as follows:

  1. Houston, Texas
  2. Newark, New Jersey
  3. San Bernardino, California
  4. Detroit, Michigan
  5. Jersey City, New Jersey
  6. Bakersfield, California
  7. San Antonio, Texas
  8. Fresno, California
  9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  10. Yonkers, New York
  11. Shreveport, Louisiana
  12. New York, New York
  13. Birmingham, Alabama
  14. Ontario, California
  15. Los Angeles, California
  16. Modesto, California
  17. Palmdale, California
  18. Hollywood, Florida
  19. Las Vegas, Nevada
  20. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Several California cities, including Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino, also ranked among the “dirtiest.” San Bernardino, in particular, had the highest dissatisfaction among residents regarding cleanliness for the second consecutive year.

The study also underscored water issues in the Southwest, exacerbated by drought and climate change. Las Vegas was named the “dirtiest” city in the region, ranking 19th overall, while Chandler, Arizona, emerged as the cleanest at 71st.

Cigarette litter emerged as a common issue in Ohio, with Cleveland having the highest percentage of smokers (29.1%) and subsequent litter problems despite strict laws. Conversely, Columbus had the lowest percentage of smokers (22.1%) and ranked among the cleaner cities overall, at 137th.

On a positive note, Virginia Beach, Virginia, retained its position as the cleanest city for the second consecutive year, boasting low pollution levels and high consumer satisfaction. Other top-performing cities included Fremont, California; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Des Moines, Iowa.

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