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What Cities are the Most Dangerous to Your Health? Ranking the Most Polluted Mid-Size Cities in the United States

40 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2020

See all articles by John Gilderbloom

John Gilderbloom

University of Louisville - School of Urban & Public Affairs

Chris Bird Washington

Independent

Karrie Quenichet

University of Louisville

Chris Manella

Independent

Calvin Dwenger

Independent

Ellen Slaten

Independent

Sait Sarr

University of Louisville

Shahbaz Altaf

University of Louisville

Chad Frederick

Grand Valley State University

More...

Abstract

Problem: Bad air is a major worldwide problem that also contributes significantly to greenhouse gasses This paper proposes a method for identifying toxic air in cities and how it might impact lifespan, fetal health, education scores, housing values, and labor force participation.

Research: Under the Trump administration, it is increasingly difficult to find data collected by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on air quality. With the help of an “insider” who knew where to find it, obtained four standard EPA measures of air quality for medium sized cities.

Strategy: For optimal measurement purposes, we focused on semi-isolated places. We use the Molotch/Appelbaum comparative planning method of looking at 142 midsized cities with a population over 50,000 and not located within 20 miles of another city of 50,000 or more.

Findings: We were able to rank midsize cities by cleanest to dirtiest. The method and results will inform and empower citizens to fight for clean air and understand how it can help address social, health and economic problems in cities.

Take away: Planners, public officials and citizen groups have little understanding of how to measure air quality in cities. Moreover, medical officials can tell patients that “moving away from cities or neighborhoods with high levels of pollution might be more prudent. Or enacting legislation that reduces air toxins or prohibiting industries that adversely pollute neighborhoods and cities. The results of this study will assist the medical community in explaining why certain diseases are more prevalent in cities with dirty air.

Limitations: There are over 700 places in the United States with a population over 50,000. The EPA does not collect data for over 200 of these places and for those cities where they collect the data only 142 fit our sampling frame of being semi-isolated places that maximize best measurement of air quality. However, we provide a link to the data and the methods for measuring air quality.

Funding Statement: None.

Declaration of Interests: None.

Keywords: factors reducing lifespan in cities, measuring pollution in cities, lifespan

Suggested Citation

Gilderbloom, John and Washington, Chris Bird and Quenichet, Karrie and Manella, Chris and Dwenger, Calvin and Slaten, Ellen and Sarr, Sait and Altaf, Shahbaz and Frederick, Chad, What Cities are the Most Dangerous to Your Health? Ranking the Most Polluted Mid-Size Cities in the United States (12/13/2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3506217 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3506217

John Gilderbloom (Contact Author)

University of Louisville - School of Urban & Public Affairs ( email )

Louisville, KY 40292
United States

Chris Bird Washington

Independent

No Address Available
United States

Karrie Quenichet

University of Louisville

Louisville, KY 40292
United States

Chris Manella

Independent

No Address Available
United States

Calvin Dwenger

Independent

No Address Available
United States

Ellen Slaten

Independent

No Address Available
United States

Sait Sarr

University of Louisville

Louisville, KY 40292
United States

Shahbaz Altaf

University of Louisville

Louisville, KY 40292
United States

Chad Frederick

Grand Valley State University

1 Campus Dr.
Allendale, MI 49401-9403
United States

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