Discover the Filthiest City in Rhode Island

Written by Sharon Parry
Published: February 26, 2024
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Rhode Island is one of the New England states in the Northeastern region of the United States. It covers a total of 1,214 square miles and is one of the most densely populated states in the country. There are eight cities and 31 towns that all face a range of environmental challenges, but which is the filthiest city in Rhode Island? Let’s discover which location has earned that dubious accolade and why.

Why Is Providence the Dirtiest City in Rhode Island?

Providence has been named the dirtiest city in Rhode Island by the Lawnstarter website which collected data on 200 cities. Pollution was one of the metrics used to rank the cities taking into account air quality, water quality violations, greenhouse gas emissions, annual excess fuel consumption, and percentage of smokers. This was combined with living conditions data, including the number of homes with mold, mice, rats, and cockroaches.

Further data was added on infrastructure variables, including landfills and junk yards. Finally, data on consumer satisfaction, such as dissatisfaction with pollution and the number of residents who find the city dirty. Overall, Providence was ranked the 69th filthy city in the US (out of 200).

What’s the Impact on Public Health?

Damp buildings damaged by black mold and fungus, dampness or water.

Mold in houses can cause exacerbation of asthma and other allergic symptoms.

©Bigyy/iStock via Getty Images

Rhode Island was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the US and has a legacy of contaminated soil, toxic waste, and exposure to contaminants. These days, around 70 percent of Providence’s greenhouse gas emissions come from homes (burning natural gas) and transportation (road traffic and ships). Air pollution affects people when they breathe in polluted air, and it enters their respiratory system. Chemicals and particulates in the air can lead to inflammation, oxidative stress, and mutations that can impact the heart and brain as well as the lungs. Sediments in the Narragansett Bay in Providence are already contaminated by chemicals and heavy metals.

Mold growth in houses can have an effect on respiratory health, triggering asthma and making other conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease worse. In other people, it causes sneezing, runny noses, and skin rashes. Rats, mice, and cockroaches can all carry diseases such as salmonella.

The Impact a Dirty City Has on Animals

Animals are also affected by pollution and environmental contamination. Studies have shown that sulfur dioxide, ozone, particulates, and heavy metals can cause health problems in wildlife. Current research suggests that the effects include reproductive problems and reduced survival. Harmful chemicals in marine environments, such as those off the coast of Providence, have been shown to impact the immune function of marine animals and impact their life expectancy.

Environmental Damage in Providence?

One of the factors impacting Providence’s high ranking is the high number of landfill sites. The environmental impact of landfill sites can be severe. As well as producing methane and carbon dioxide, they destroy natural habitats for wildlife. Even those landfills that are lined with plastic can leach chemicals into the surrounding soil and water courses and can even contribute towards marine pollution.

Cleaning up Providence

There are plenty of organizations dedicated to cleaning up the environment in Providence. Providence Against Community Trash wants to get back to basics and focus on quality-of-life issues. Save The Bay is a nonprofit organization actively working to restore habitats compromised by pollution in Narragansett Bay. Hopefully, the hard work of groups like these will mean that Providence will soon lose its position as the filthiest city in Rhode Island.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © vchal/

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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