The Top 10 Most Toxic Cities in America

Reader Contribution by Susan Melgren and Web Editor
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At Natural Home, we expend a lot of effort to make sure our homes are safe, nontoxic environments. We make our own chemical-free cleaning solutions; we choose organic food, clothing and linens; and we ensure that all products brought into our home are free of formaldehyde, VOCs, pesticides and other toxins. But once we step outside our homes, it’s a whole new ball game. Our cities are just as much part of our living environment as our homes–only we don’t have as much control over them.

Wonder how clean (or dirty) your city is? Forbes created a list of the 10 most toxic cities in America by looking at the biggest metropolises in the country and rating them on five areas: air quality, water quality, number of Superfund sites (abandoned areas where hazardous waste can be found), number of days the cities’ Air Quality Index (AQI) exceeded 100, and the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory. The EPA says that days above 100 on the AQI can cause respiratory problems for older adults, children and those with lung problems. As for the Toxics Release Inventory, this report catalogs the number of pounds of potentially hazardous chemicals that the manufacturing, mining and other industries released in a given year.

Philadelphia is the most toxic city in America. Photo By Brad Jacobson/Courtesy Flickr.

The city of brotherly love secured the top spot this year, with more than 50 Superfund sites and 11.3 million pounds of toxic releases in 2009. Bakersfield, California, came in second with a recorded 43 days above 100 on the AQI in 2009. (Most cities don’t have even one day a year above 100 on the AQI.) From west coast to east coast, here are Forbes’ 10 Most Toxic Cities in America.

1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

2. Bakersfield, California 

3. Fresno, California 

4. New York, New York 

5. Baton Rogue, Louisiana 

6. Los Angeles, California 

7. Houston, Texas 

8. St. Louis, Missouri 

9. Salt Lake City, Utah 

10. Riverside-San Bernadino, California 

Does your city make the list?

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