Arvin, Calif., proves that you don’t need factories or freeways to have America’s worst air pollution. The agricultural town’s mountain locale collects pollution, the AP reports, giving the air a toxic smell and raising health concerns. The EPA uses the ozone level to gauge smog across the country, and from 2004 to 2006, Arvin (pop. 15,000) brought up the rear.
Ozone levels exceeded EPA recommendations an average of 73 days per year in that time. Asthma and other respiratory complaints are common. But change won't be quick: San Joaquin Valley officials say they can't meet federal air-quality standards by a 2012 deadline, leaving residents, in the words of one local pol, "going to the beach so I can breathe."