A toxic plume of smoke billows from a power plant's smoke stacks.
According to EPA figures, Ohio is responsible for more than 12 percent of U.S. air pollution. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Señor Codo/Flickr)

Is it safe to breathe the air where you live? According to a survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council, clean air may be more rare than you think. Led by Ohio, here are the 20 most toxic states in the U.S.

Uh oh, Ohio

Among U.S. states with the highest concentration of toxic air pollution from coal and oil power plants, Ohio leads the unfortunate pack. Using Environmental Protection Agency data, the NRDC determined that Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida are the most unsafe states when it comes to air quality. Not surprisingly, half of all industrial air pollution in the U.S. comes from states that depend upon coal and oil power plants most heavily.

The 20 most toxic US states, from worst to not-as-bad

1. Ohio

2. Pennsylvania

3. Florida

4. Kentucky

5. Maryland

6. Indiana

7. Michigan

8. West Virginia

9. Georgia

10. North Carolina

11. South Carolina

12. Alabama

13. Texas

14. Virginia

15. Tennessee

16. Missouri

17. Illinois

18. Wisconsin

19. New Hampshire

20. Iowa

Air filled with toxic chemicals

EPA data suggests that the skies above the U.S. continue to be a dumping ground for toxic waste smoke. Power plants emitted more than 771 million pounds of chemicals in 2009, with electrical plants responsible for 382 million of those pounds (49 percent). While environmental accords like the Kyoto Protocol have helped slow the progression of harmful airborne chemicals globally, the U.S. has remained an outsider. Hence, air pollution levels have remained consistently high.

Ohio accounted for 12 percent of all U.S. industrial air pollution, at 44.5 million pounds of chemicals emitted. Iowa, ranked number 20, spewed 1 percent (2.5 million pounds).

Forbes notes that the EPA’s response to the threat toxic chemicals pose to the environment has been to revise its standards regarding mercury levels and other airborne toxic substances. However, resistance from politicians like House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Fred Upton (R-MI) has been fierce. The EPA estimates that if its revisions were allowed to take hold, up to 120,000 cases of childhood asthma would be abated and 17,000 lives would be saved each year  starting in 2015.

Fight for your right to clean air

Sources

Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/2011/02/28/most-toxic-cities-personal-finance.html

Kyoto Protocol Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_Protocol

Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/15140-ohio-tops-list-toxic-states.html

Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org/

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