Air pollution probably isn't something you think about every day, but it's certainly important to your health. According to the American Lung Association's (ALA) State of the Air 2011 report, some cities are definitely healthier than others when it comes to air pollution.
The report ranks cites based on ozone pollution, short-term particle pollution and year-long particle pollution. While each of the criteria affect the health of those living in and near the cities, we're going to highlight the worst cities according to year-round particle pollution. According to the ALA, people who live in cities where there are chronic levels of air pollution — even low levels — are at an increased risk of hospitalization for asthma, damage to the lungs and even premature death.
Below is a list of the cities with the worst year-round particle pollution. Note that there was technically a four-way tie for second. Not a title you want to be vying for ...
Top 5 Cities With the Worst Air Pollution and Air Quality
5. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
3. Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ
2. Visalia-Porterville, CA
1. Bakersfield-Delano, CA
5 Tips to Protect Yourself From Air Pollution
No matter how polluted the air in your city is — or isn't — follow these tips from the ALA to protect yourself from unhealthy air.
1. Skip the outdoor workouts when the air quality is low. You can find air-quality reports on your local radio and TV weather reports, newspapers and online. When the air quality is bad, workout at home or at the gym. Always avoid exercising near high-traffic areas.
2. Unplug it. Generating electricity and other sources of energy creates air pollution. The more you can reduce your energy use, the more you help improve air quality, curb greenhouse gas emissions, encourage energy independence and save money!
3. Walk, bike or carpool. Combine trips when running errands. Use buses, subways, light rail systems, commuter trains or other alternatives to driving your car. You'll help the air, and if you bike or walk, you'll burn extra calories!
4. If you do drive, fill up your gas tank after dark. Gasoline emissions evaporate as you fill up your gas tank, contributing to the formation of ozone. To prevent this, fill up early in the morning or after dark to keep the sun from turning those gases into air pollution.
5. Go smoke-free. You already know smoking is bad for your health, and it's just as bad for air quality — even when you smoke outside. Dangerous particles from cigarette smoke can remain in the air long after a cigarette has been extinguished, so put those cigarettes out.
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.