Forbes magazine rates Atlanta as the “most toxic” city in the United States.
“In Atlanta, Ga., you’ll find southern gentility, a world-class music scene — and 21,000 tons of environmental waste. In spite of its charms, the city’s combination of air pollution, contaminated land and atmospheric chemicals makes it the most toxic city in the country,” the magazine says in an article published this week.
Forbes said its calculations included the “number of facilities that reported releasing toxins into the environment, the total pounds of certain toxic chemicals released into the air, water and earth, the days per year that air pollution was above healthy levels, and the total number of Superfund sites.” The Superfund category refers to areas targeted by the federal government for clean-up priority due to high levels of toxicity.
Forbes said that the city of Atlanta isn’t solely to blame for its pollution. It cited suburban cities such as Sandy Springs and Marietta as major contributors to the area’s toxicity. Both towns, it said, contain chemical plants, metal coaters and concrete factories.
Environmental advocates blamed weak regulations for Atlanta’s problems.
“We struggle to have strong environmental leadership,” Jenette Gayer, policy advocate for Environment Georgia, told the magazine. “For a lot of the chemicals people reported dumping, there are alternatives we should be helping them switch to.”
Right behind Atlanta on the toxicity list were Detroit, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Los Angeles.
High population density, unlike the sprawling Atlanta metro area, can actually be a blessing, Forbes said. In New York, for example, a highly efficient subway system keeps the nation’s largest city outside the worst 20 for toxicity.
Forbes said its study looked at the country’s 40 largest metropolitan statistical areas.