FRESNO (AP) – Cities in California’s Central Valley dominate the American Lung Association’s annual rankings of the nation’s worst air pollution that were released Wednesday, though traditional dirty-air leader Los Angeles still tops key categories.

Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield rank 1-2-3 in the country for short-term spikes in fine-particle pollution in the in the Lung Association’s 15th annual “State of the Air” report, meaning their residents inhale soot and other tiny pollution specks at unmatched levels. It is the first time the Fresno-Madera area earned the distinction that Bakersfield had last year.

Los Angeles was fourth behind the three Central Valley cities in that category, but it’s still on top in another, violating federal standards for ozone in the air 122 days a year.

The failing grades come despite decades of increasing air clarity in the areas that has still left them lagging behind the rest of the U.S.

“We’ve come a long way, but the status quo is not acceptable,” Bonnie Holmes-Gen, a senior director of policy in Sacramento for the American Lung Association, told the Los Angeles Times.

Like the Los Angeles Basin, cities in Central California have stagnant weather and a bowl shape make cutting smog especially challenging.

“The San Joaquin Valley continues to be a very difficult challenge,” Holmes-Gen told the Fresno Bee. “We have to recognize the problem.”

The rankings came in the Lung Association’s 15th annual “State of the Air” report.

It comes at a time when the state is going through a historically severe drought and on a day when wind-driven wildfires were plaguing Southern California.

Such dust and smoke could do damage to recent improvements and make the state’s air even worse.

“There’s a potential to erode some of the gains we’ve made in California,” Jack Broadbent, leader of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, told the Bee.

The analysis doesn’t include 2013, whose drought will likely bring a spike and still more dreary numbers next year.


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.


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