Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the air and environment causing adverse effects. With the already high and ever-rising population in urban areas, many cities are plagued with rising pollution levels.
In the environment, pollution comes in the form of fossil fuels, litter, coal, noise, light, and sound. Pollution impacts ecosystems on land and marine life. It can muddy waterways, kill plants and animals, and poison the water and air. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 44% of streams, 64% of lakes, and 30% of the bay and estuarine areas are not clean enough for swimming or fishing, in the United States.
Pollution is not only detrimental to the environment but also human health. According to Pure Earth, toxic pollution is among the leading risk factors for non-communicable diseases globally. Non-communicable diseases account for 72% of all deaths, 16% of which toxic pollution is responsible for. Pollution is a cause for cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
In past decades, the United States Congress passed several Clean Air Acts in an attempt to enforce stricter pollution regulation. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions declined from 197 million tons to 89 million tons; particulate emissions fell by 80%; and lead emissions fell more than 98%, among other emissions.
Despite the effectiveness of the Clean Air Acts air pollution has increased by 5.5% since 2016. Air pollution is measured by air-quality monitoring devices that track levels of dangerous particulates. The most harmful of these is called PM2.5, which are tiny enough to enter the bloodstream through the lungs and can cause death. Only 10 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter is deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Due to a variety of factors, cities around the United States experience different levels of pollution. For several years now, cities have been working on green initiatives to implement cleaner vehicles and processes and lower the levels of pollution. In order to determine which cities are the cleanest, The American Lung Association ranks the cleanest cities in the United States based on their particle pollution, litter, and eco-friendly initiatives.
The ten cleanest cities in the United States are:
- Honolulu, HI
- Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
- Denver, CO
- Orlando, FL
- Burlington, VT
- Wilmington, NC
- Syracuse, NY
- Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL
- Lincoln, NE
- Bellingham, WA
Honolulu, Hawaii ranks first as the cleanest city in the U.S. Despite being the most fossil fuel-dependent state in the U.S., due to its reliance on tourism and the military, Hawaii is currently working to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045. Honolulu is currently working hard to implement its green initiatives, such as using local, renewable energy sources, planting one million trees, and more.
Other cities with green programs are Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, and Orlando. Dallas’s Clean Slate program pays the homeless to help clean up the streets. Denver’s Clean Cities Coalition funds and implements fuel efficiency, hybrid and electric technology, and community engagement. Orlando has its own Downtown Clean Team, a group of volunteers that does daily trash and litter clean-ups, remove graffiti and overall maintain the city.