When driving to New Orleans, hold your breath halfway there. Baton Rouge has landed at No. 5 on Forbes Magazine’s list of the 10 most toxic cities in the United States.

The magazine graded the 80 largest metro areas in the country based on five measures: air quality, water quality, Superfund sites, number of days the Air Quality Index exceeded 100 in 2009 (the most recent year available) and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory.

Heading the list of foul cities were, in descending order, Philadelphia, Bakersfield, Calif., Fresno, Calif., and New York City. Rounding out the top 10 were Los Angeles, Houston, St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Riverside-San Bernadino, Calif.

A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Quality tells Baton Rouge television station WAFB the study is skewed, stressing that the capitol city had no AQI days over 100 in 2009.

“The air quality in Baton Rouge and through the state continues to improve,” says Rodney Mallett with DEQ.

Read more here.

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