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Salt Lake City is one of the cleanest cities in America, study says

FILE - Salt Lake City. (Getty)
FILE - Salt Lake City. (Getty)
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Despite having some of the worst air quality in the nation during its inversions, Salt Lake City is one of the cleanest cities in America, according to a new study.

Researchers with LawnStarter used 20 metrics broken down into five categories to determine the rankings of the 200 biggest cities in the country. Those metrics along with study's methodology can be found at the end of this story.

Palmdale, Calif. is the nation's dirtiest city, while Winston-Salem, N.C. is the cleanest.

Those 200 cities were ranked in descending order from dirtiest to cleanest in the study called "2021's Dirtiest Cities in the U.S."

Salt Lake City is ranked 176, meaning there are only 24 cities cleaner than Utah's capital.

Ten of the top 25 dirtiest cities are in California, with eight of them in the Los Angeles metro area.

Researchers said:

LA-area cities scored especially poorly on pollution metrics, such air quality and fuel consumption. And with LA’s famous smog hitting pollution records even during the pandemic, the skies won’t be clearing anytime soon."


  1. Palmdale, Calif.
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Newark, N.J.
  4. Houston
  5. San Antonio
  6. New York
  7. New Orleans
  8. Long Beach, Calif.
  9. Memphis, Tenn.
  10. Chicago
  11. Aurora, Ill.
  12. Glendale, Calif.
  13. Mesa, Ariz.
  14. Phoenix
  15. Fontana, Calif.
  16. Pasadena, Calif.
  17. Anaheim, Calif.
  18. Detroit
  19. Las Vegas
  20. San Jose, Calif.
  21. Fort Worth, Texas
  22. Oklahoma City
  23. Santa Clarita, Calif.
  24. Fresno, Calif.
  25. Kansas City, Kan.

When it comes to cockroaches, the subtropical climates found in Florida and parts of Texas are a big reason why the pests flourish there.

Researchers said:

Of the top 30 cities for share of homes with signs of cockroaches, 23 were in our two most infested states. The warm subtropical climate is the most likely reason for the increased bug presence. If you live in Florida or Texas — or New York City and Newark (where Joe’s Apartment was filmed) — you’re likely sharing your home with six-legged uninvited guests."


  1. Winston-Salem, N.C.
  2. Frisco, Texas
  3. Madison, Wis.
  4. Dayton, Ohio
  5. St. Paul, Minn.
  6. Metairie, La.
  7. Elk Grove, Calif.
  8. Clarksville, Tenn.
  9. McKinney, Texas
  10. Lexington, Ky.
  11. Lincoln, Neb.
  12. Little Rock, Ark.
  13. Salem, Ore.
  14. Chesapeake, Va.
  15. Des Moines, Iowa
  16. Fort Wayne, Ind.
  17. Springfield, Mo.
  18. Enterprise, Nev.
  19. Sioux Falls, S.D.
  20. Oceanside, Calif.
  21. Garden Grove, Calif.
  22. Sunrise Manor, Nev.
  23. Huntsville, Ala.
  24. Augusta, Ga.
  25. Salt Lake City

Five of the nation's dirtiest cities are also some of the largest, with five of the ten most-populated cities ranking in the top ten for dirtiest.

Researchers said:

hese megacities (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston, for example) performed especially badly in our living-conditions metrics, with New York City having the highest percentage of homes with signs of mice or rats. It’s no surprise then that New York’s Pizza Rat became a viral video sensation."

20 metrics are broken down into five categories


  • Air Quality
  • Water Quality
  • Greenhouse-Gas Emissions per Capita
  • Annual Excess Fuel Consumption

Living Conditions

  • Population Density
  • Share of Overcrowded Households
  • Share of Households with No Kitchen or Plumbing Facilities
  • Share of Homes with Mold in Last 12 Months
  • Share of Homes with Signs of Mice or Rats in Last 12 Months
  • Share of Homes with Signs of Cockroaches in Last 12 Months
  • Share of Homes with Sewage Disposal Breakdowns in Last 3 Months
  • Homeless Rate

Resident Satisfaction with City Cleanliness

  • Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Garbage Disposal
  • Share of Residents Who Find City Dirty and Untidy
  • Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Time in City Due to Pollution
  • Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Greenery and Parks


  • Rating of State Waste Regulations and Measures
  • Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors per 100,000 Residents
  • Alternative-Fuel Stations per 100,000 Residents
  • Share of Roads in Poor Condition

Sources: County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, LawnStarter, National Transportation Research Nonprofit (TRIP), Numbeo, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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You can learn more about this study's methodology here.

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