The 10 cities with the worst (& best) air quality in the U.S.

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The 10 cities with the worst (& best) air quality in the U.S.

Hilo, Hawaii, is, by acclamation, one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's got waterfalls. It's got jungles. It's got rainbows.

It it also happens to be located in the vicinity of a handful of active volcanoes, including Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on the planet. Regular eruptions give Hilo the worst air quality of any city in the country, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA measures how polluted the air is using a metric called the Air Quality Index, which scales from zero to 500, with higher numbers indicating dirtier air.

Hilo had the highest median AQI in 2017, at 146. For all but 64 days, the air in Hilo was considered unhealthy, or worse, for sensitive groups. The smog that issues forth from the volcano is so regular that locals have a word for it: vog.

If you're planning a trip or a move to a new place, make sure you can breathe easy. Check out the 10 areas with the worst air quality in the U.S., plus the 10 with the best. We based our rankings on 2017 data from the EPA, which tracks air pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide and particle pollution.

The 10 places with the worst air quality

1. Hilo, Hawaii

Population: 200,381
Median AQI: 146
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

2. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California

Population: 4.6 million
Median AQI: 99
Top pollutant: Ozone

3. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona

Population: 4.7 million
Median AQI: 84
Top pollutant: Particulate matter

4. Bakersfield, California

Population: 893,119
Median AQI: 84
Top pollutant: Ozone

5. Payson, Arizona

Population: 53,501
Median AQI: 84
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

6. Visalia-Porterville, California

Population: 464,493
Median AQI: 80
Top pollutant: Ozone

7. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California

Population: 13.4 million
Median AQI: 79
Top pollutant: Ozone

8. Fresno, California

Population: 989,255
Median AQI: 74
Top pollutant: Ozone

9. Hanford-Corcoran, California

Population: 150,101
Median AQI: 70
Top pollutant: Ozone

10. San Diego-Carlsbad, California

Population: 3.3 million
Median AQI: 65
Top pollutant: Ozone

The 10 places with the best air quality

1. College Station-Bryan, Texas

Population: 258,044
Median AQI: 0
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

2. Enid, Oklahoma

Population: 61,581
Median AQI: 0
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

3. Malone, New York

Population: 51,116
Median AQI: 0
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

4. Seneca Falls, New York

Population: 34,498
Median AQI: 0
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

5. Monroe, Michigan

Population: 149,649
Median AQI: 1
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

6. Ottawa-Peru, Illinois

Population: 149,037
Median AQI: 1
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

7. Washington, North Carolina

Population: 47,088
Median AQI: 1
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

8. Mount Pleasant, Texas

Population: 32,904
Median AQI: 1
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

9. Salem, Ohio

Population: 103,077
Median AQI: 3
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

10. Jasper, Indiana

Population: 54,923
Median AQI: 4
Top pollutant: Sulfur dioxide

Wonder how U.S. cities fare when it comes to commutes? We compared travel times to work in metro areas across the country.

Image: Art Wager