TIME public health

These Are America’s 10 Most Polluted Cities

California is well-represented on the list

More than 40% of Americans live in a place with unhealthy air quality, according to a new report from the American Lung Association. But, when it comes to how bad that air pollution can get, there’s a real range.

Los Angeles, which has some of the most polluted air in the country, experiences unhealthy levels of particle pollution for the equivalent of nearly a month out of each year and unhealthy ozone pollution for the equivalent of more than two months annually. Six cities, all much smaller in size, went an entire year without an unhealthy day of either.

Particle pollution refers to the toxic exhaust emitted by processes like smoking or driving a car, and ozone pollution refers to an invisible substance present in smog. Exposure to either pollutant can exacerbate breathing problems and increase residents’ chance of developing cancer.

People most harmed by air pollution include those with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and asthma, as well as children and the elderly. The report also notes that great disparities in risk exist even within cities. People who live close to highways or busy roads, for instance, are at increased risk, and overall, low socioeconomic status is associated with exposure to poorer air quality.

The report offers a few guidelines for individuals to manage pollution, like avoiding high-traffic areas, but the report also suggests a more top-level approach to public health: strengthening clean-air regulation.

Here are the U.S. cities with the most ozone pollution in 2015:

1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
2. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA
3. Bakersfield, CA
4. Fresno-Madera, CA
5. Sacramento-Roseville, CA
6. Houston-The Woodlands, TX
7. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK
8. Modesto-Merced, CA
9. Las Vegas-Henderson, NV-AZ
10. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ

The six cities without any days of unhealthy ozone or particle pollution are Bismarck, N.D.,Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, Fla., Elmira-Corning, N.Y., Fargo-Wahpeton, N.D.-Minn., Rapid City-Spearfish, S.D. and Salinas, Calif.

  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA

    Pier G, foreground, sits idle at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif.
    Tim Rue—Bloomberg/Getty Images Pier G, foreground, sits idle at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif., Dec. 3, 2012.

    Los Angeles has topped the list of the most ozone-polluted cities in 15 out of the last 16 American Lung Association reports. And though the city has actually reduced the total annual days of ozone pollution, there was still an unhealthy level of ozone still for more than two months.

  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA

    Canadian geese fly over a tumbleweed-covered fallow field at sunrise on February 5, 2014 near Visalia, California.
    David McNew—Getty Images Canadian geese fly over a tumbleweed-covered fallow field at sunrise on Feb. 5, 2014 near Visalia, California.

    The number of days of unhealthy ozone levels in Visalia, a Central California metropolitan area of more than 600,000 people, declined to the lowest level in the 2015 report.

  • Bakersfield, CA

    Oil pumps stand at the Chevron Corp. Kern River oil field in Bakersfield, Calif.
    Ken James—Bloomberg/Getty Images Oil pumps stand at the Chevron Corp. Kern River oil field in Bakersfield, Calif., March 29, 2011.

    Mountains that surround Bakersfield on three sides trap pollution in this central California city.

  • Fresno-Madera, CA

    The downtown Fresno skyline with heavy haze
    Craig Kohlruss—MCT/Getty Images The downtown Fresno skyline with heavy haze is seen, Jan. 17, 2014.

    Fresno, another city in central California, is home to the greatest number of at-risk people, according to the report.

  • Sacramento-Roseville, CA

    California’s capital city is home to more than 200,000 people with asthma, including 50,000 children.

  • Houston-The Woodlands, TX

    U.S. Energy Surge Crowds Houston Port With $35 Billion Blitz
    Scott Dalton—Bloomberg/Getty Images A boat passes a refinery standing along the Houston Ship Channel in Houston, Texas, Jan. 30, 2014.

    Houston, home to a significant number of heavy industry companies, has instituted a number of policies in recent years that have actually improved air quality.

  • Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

    A 150-foot derrick towers over traffic along Interstate 35W, left, positioned on a natural gas well site in Fort Worth, Texas.
    Robert Nickelsberg—Getty Images A 150-foot derrick towers over traffic along Interstate 35W, left, positioned on a natural gas well site on Dec. 17, 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas.

    The Dallas metropolitan area had an average of 16 days of unhealthy ozone pollution each year, according to the report.

  • Modesto-Merced, CA

    Modesto is yet another Central California city to fail pollution standards.

  • Las Vegas-Henderson, NV

    The M Resort in Henderson, Nev. on May 21, 2012.
    Steve Marcus—AP The M Resort in Henderson, Nev. on May 21, 2012.

    Las Vegas has hundreds of thousands of at-risk residents, including more than 175,000 people with asthma.

  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ

    Morning view from the top of Piestawa Peak looking Southeast over Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, and Phoenix, Ariz.
    Tim McGuire—Corbis Morning view from the top of Piestawa Peak looking Southeast over Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, and Phoenix, Ariz.

    Phoenix, a newcomer to the top-ten list, saw reduced air quality in recent years.

TIME space

Watch This Supply Rocket Spin Out of Control in Space

It was supposed to deliver supplies to the International Space Station

A spacecraft that experienced difficulties Tuesday while trying to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) is spinning out of control, NASA said Wednesday.

A video released by NASA shows a point-of-view perspective from within the unmanned Progress 59 Cargo Craft, which has now entered into a “slow spin” as Russian flight controllers attempt to regain control of it.

MORE: Watch the Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year in Space

The resupply vehicle is rotating once every five seconds, according to a statement released by the Joint Functional Component Command for Space’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) early Wednesday morning. The JSpOC has also observed 44 pieces of debris near the resupply vehicle, though it cannot confirm which part of the vehicle the debris came from.

Former ISS commander and astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted Wednesday that he predicts the spacecraft will now slowly fall back to Earth, burning up before it reaches the surface, while officials monitor it closely.

NASA has not yet confirmed what will happen to the spacecraft, though it is normal for resupply vehicles to fall back to Earth and disintegrate in the atmosphere after the missions are complete, says Stephanie Schierholz, a spokesperson for NASA Human Space Flight.

The spacecraft had launched successfully on a Soyuz rocket Tuesday morning, but an “unspecified problem” prevented controllers from establishing communications with the vehicle. Meanwhile, the six crew members aboard the ISS are safe and are continuing regular operations with sufficient supplies, NASA said Tuesday. The next planned delivery is scheduled for no earlier than June 19.

TIME A Year In Space

A Month Spent in Space—and 11 More to Go

.@FLOTUS Thank you. Made it! Moving into crew quarters on @space_station to begin my #yearinspace.
Scott Kelly—NASA Scott Kelly posted this selfie on March 30, shortly after his arrival to the space station, while moving into his living quarters, where he will sleep during his year in space.

The first 30 days of Scott Kelly's mission aboard the ISS are in the books

A year in space is marked in part by the holidays that will pass while you’re away. Christmas? Sorry, out of town. Easter? Ditto. Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, Halloween? Catch you next year.

It’s fitting then, that the first holiday astronaut Scott Kelly spent in the just-completed first month of his planned one-year stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS)—which began with his launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the early morning hours of March 29—was Cosmonautics Day. Never heard of it? You would have if you were Russian.

Cosmonautics Day celebrates April 12, 1961, when Yuri Gagarin lifted off from the same launch pad from which Kelly’s mission began, becoming the first human being in space. Kelly and his five crewmates—including fellow one-year marathoner Mikhail Kornienko—got the morning off on this year’s special day, taking the opportunity to enjoy the relative comforts of a spacecraft with more habitable space than a four-bedroom home. But in the afternoon it was back to work—following a moment-by-moment schedule that is scripted on the ground, followed in space and that, while often grueling, is the best way for astronauts and cosmonauts who have signed on for a long hitch to keep their minds on their work and keep the time from crawling.

Kelly’s first month was, in some ways, typical of the 11 that lie ahead. There was the arrival of a SpaceX cargo ship—a vessel carrying 4,300 lbs (1,950 kg) of equipment and supplies, including a subzero freezer that can preserve experiments at -112º F (-80º C)—that needed to be unloaded; new gear to aid studies of the effects of microgravity on mice; and a sample of so-called synthetic muscle, a strong but pliant material modeled after human muscle, to be used for robotic limbs and joints. Also tucked into the load was a less practical but infinitely more anticipated item—a zero-gravity espresso machine, dubbed the ISSpresso.

There are 250 experiments that must be tended at any one time aboard the ISS, but the most important of them will be Kelly and Kornienko themselves. The human body was built for the one-g environment of Earth, but if we ever hope to achieve our grand dreams of traveling to Mars and beyond, we’d better figure out if we can survive the rigors of zero-g. And that’s no sure thing. Almost every system in the body—circulatory, skeletal, cellular, visual—breaks down in some ways in weightlessness.

In their first month in space alone, the two long-termers submitted to a whole range of preliminary experiments that will track their health throughout their stay: their eyes are being studied to determine the kind of effect the upward shift in fluids caused by zero-g has on the optic nerve and the shape of the eyeball. Space physicians already know the basic answer: not a good one. But the hope is that Kelly and Kornienko will help provide ways to mitigate the damage.

Other biomedical studies in the first month include sampling saliva and sweat to test for bacterial levels and chemical balance; leg scans to determine blood flow; studies of blood pressure—which can fluctuate wildly when the heart no longer has to pump against gravity; analyses of throat and skin samples; bone density tests and studies of the cells to determine why they change shape in zero-g. As exquisite serendipity has it, Kelly’s identical twin brother, Mark, is a retired astronaut, providing a perfect controlled study of how men with matching genomes and matching backgrounds react to a year spent in decidedly non-matching environments. Nearly all of the studies Scott submits to in space will be duplicated in Mark on the ground.

The eleven months ahead will not all be a Groundhog Day repetition of the first. Kelly will venture out on at least two spacewalks—the first of his four-mission career—and will help oversee a complex reconfiguration of the station, with modules and docking ports repositioned to accommodate commercial crew vehicles built by Boeing and SpaceX, which are supposed to begin arriving in 2017. There will also be movie nights and web-surfing and regular video chats, phone calls and emails with family. And the periodic arrival of cargo ships will provide such luxuries as fresh fruits and vegetables, which don’t last long in space, but don’t have to because six-person crews missing the comforts of home scarf them down fast.

The clubhouse turn of Kelly’s and Kornienko’s one-year mission will occur next December, the 50th anniversary of what was once America’s longest stay in space: the two-week flight of Gemini 7, which astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell passed in the equivalent of two coach airline seats, with the ceiling just three inches over their heads. The ISS is a manor house compared to the Gemini. But the astronauts are still astronauts, human beings in a very strange place experiencing very strange things—in this case for a very long time.

TIME is covering Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer here.

TIME A Year In Space

See Scott Kelly’s First 30 Days in Space

A visual diary of the astronaut's first month of his year-long journey in space. Scott Kelly will be the first American astronaut to spend 12 months aboard the International Space Station

TIME is following Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer here.

TIME Natural Disasters

3 Places Where the Next Big Earthquake Could Hit

"Anytime you dump that amount of kinetic energy into a major city, bad things will happen"

The earthquake that devastated Nepal on Saturday came as a shock to much of the world—but for seismologists and disaster preparedness advocates, it was no surprise. Experts have long warned that the country’s vulnerable location at the meeting of two tectonic plates and its slim economic resources made for the perfect storm.

Now, seismologists say that several spots around the world face the potential for an earthquake as least as devastating as the one that hit Kathmandu. “Anytime you dump that amount of kinetic energy into a major city, bad things will happen,” said Gregory Beroza, a Stanford University seismologist.

This map shows the places that are most likely to experience intense earthquakes (in red), based on a 1999 projection.


Here are some of the cities that most concern seismologists:


The Iranian capital is located near three major fault lines. It’s also built on relatively new sediment that doesn’t do a great job of supporting buildings when the ground shakes. On top of all that, the city has grown rapidly, and earthquake readiness was not a focus in building new homes. Hoping to reduce the risk of a catastrophe when the big one hits, Iranian officials created financial incentives in 2010 to encourage 5 million Iranians to leave the city. But the city remains large, and the risk of an earthquake is high. There’s a 90% chance of a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake in the coming decades, according to a Reuters report. And, because of the city’s location and poor construction standards, even a quake of that size would be devastating.


Turkey is no stranger to deadly earthquakes. More than 100,000 people died across the country during earthquakes in the 20th century, according to a World Bank report. And that risk hasn’t abated in recent years. Turkey has invested in retrofitting public buildings in Istanbul, the most populous city, but most of the city’s inhabitants live in hastily constructed homes that don’t meet buildings codes. A 2000 study found the city faces a greater than 60% chance of experiencing a magnitude 7.0 earthquake by 2030. A magnitude 7.6 earthquake in the Kocaeli province of Turkey, 75 miles away from Istanbul, killed nearly 1,000 people in Istanbul alone. A similar earthquake in the city center would kill many more.

Los Angeles:

Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the United States, has plenty of resources devoted to preventing a humanitarian disaster in the event of a large earthquake. But even cities that spend a lot of time and money preparing still may not be ready for the most devastating earthquakes. The Los Angeles area has a more than two-thirds chance of experiencing a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake by 2038, according to a United States Geological Society report. The 1994 Northridge earthquake, a magnitude 6.7 tremor, killed 57 people and caused $20 billion in damage.

More concerning is the 7% chance of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in the next 30 years. A magnitude 7.8 tremor could leave 1,800 dead and 50,000 injured and cause $200 billion in damage, according to the USGS.

TIME A Year In Space

Supply Rocket Headed to International Space Station Encounters Problems

The Progress M-27M cargo ship  launched from Baikonur cosmodrome
Roscosmos/EPA A Russian Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle carrying a Progress M-27M cargo ship lifts off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on April 28, 2015.

The ISS and its crew are fine

A spacecraft en route to deliver 6,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station experienced difficulties after taking off and losing communication with Russian flight controllers.

The Progress 59 Cargo Craft, containing food, fuel, water and spare parts, launched on a Soyuz rocket Tuesday morning, but a problem occurred that prevented controllers from knowing whether navigational antennae had deployed as planned, and whether the fuel system had properly pressurized. NASA said the controllers decided to delay the spacecraft’s planned contact with the ISS in two days until the situation is better understood.

In the meantime, the six ISS crew members are safe and have enough supplies to last them beyond their next planned delivery, a SpaceX mission scheduled for no earlier than June 19.

In 2011, the Russian Federal Space Agency also lost a Progress spacecraft shortly after liftoff when it failed to make it into orbit. That incident marked the first failure of a Progress spacecraft since launches began in 1978.

The complications with the resupply mission come as Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko pass the one-month mark in their yearlong mission aboard the ISS.

TIME Natural Disasters

The Himalayas Probably Just Got a Little Shorter

The Nepal earthquake caused the ground to shift

Some peaks on the world’s tallest mountain range may have gotten a little shorter following Saturday’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake in Nepal.

Precise figures aren’t available yet, but the dip in the Himalayas mountain range probably measured about 1.3 feet at points north of the epicenter near Kathmandu, according to University of Colorado professor and South Asian earthquake expert Roger Bilham.

It’s not clear what effect the quake had on Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak and where the earthquake caused an avalanche that killed at least 18 people. Any impact would be minuscule considering its size: China and Nepal, whose border touches the mountain, both say Everest measures 29,029 feet. Without the earthquake the Himalayas typically grow naturally from the movement of tectonic plates, though at a rate of less than 1 inch each year, according to the United States Geological Society.

On the fault line, the Nepal earthquake caused the ground to shift by about 10 feet, according to Bilham.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Tyson to Stop Using Human Antibiotics On Its Chickens

The company plans to eliminate use in 2017

Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest producers of chicken, announced on Tuesday that it plans to eliminate human antibiotics from its chicken flocks by the end of September 2017.

The move comes amid public health concerns over the over-use of antibiotics in farming and in humans, and how it can contribute to the growing global problem of antibiotic resistance.

“We’re confident our meat and poultry products are safe, but want to do our part to responsibly reduce human antibiotics on the farm so these medicines can continue working when they’re needed to treat illness,” Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods said in a statement issued by Tyson.v

TIME space

NASA Wants You to Guess the Cause of Mysterious Bright Spots on a Dwarf Planet


Ice? Geysers? Volcanos?

NASA has asked the public to vote on the likeliest cause of mysterious bright spots on the surface of Ceres, a dwarf planet that it recently captured in mystifying photographs.

The space agency first captured images of Ceres after the Dawn spacecraft entered its orbit in March. Ceres is the largest body, measuring 590 miles across, in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

“Even before the spacecraft arrived at the dwarf planet, images revealed mysterious bright spots that captivated scientists and observers alike,” NASA wrote on a website asking the public to vote on natural causes, ranging from ice to volcanoes to salt deposits.

TIME Environment

Heatwaves Caused By Climate Change 75% Of the Time, Study Finds

This picture shows two men attempting to push a car out of floodwaters after a storm swept Changsha, central China's Hunan province on taken on April 7, 2015
AFP/Getty Images This picture shows two men attempting to push a car out of floodwaters after a storm swept Changsha, central China's Hunan province on taken on April 7, 2015

Heavy precipitation is another result of climate change

Climate change is increasingly causing extreme weather like heavy rains, heat waves and severe storms, according to a new study.

Three-quarters of all hot spells occurring over land can be traced back to human activity, according to a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change. Global warming also causes 18% of heavy precipitation, the report finds, a figure that will increase to 40% if temperatures continue to rise.

“With every degree of warming it is the rarest and the most extreme events—and thereby the ones with typically the highest socio-economic impacts—for which the largest fraction is due to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions,” Swiss researchers Erich Fischer and Reto Knutti wrote.

The study looked at heat waves and heavy rains from 25 climate models over the period from 1901-2005 as well as projections for 2006-2100.

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