Discover the Florida Town With the State’s Worst Air Quality

Florida map
Alexander Lukatskiy/Shutterstock.com

Written by Chanel Coetzee

Updated: May 25, 2023

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Florida is one of the states with the cleanest air due to wind coming off the ocean and its relatively flat landscape. However, several towns struggle with air pollution. Unfortunately, 60% of the air pollution in Florida is caused by emissions from trucks, cars, and boats. Emissions from power plants and refineries, factories,  forest fires, and accidental leaks and spills make up the other 40%. But what Florida town has the state’s worst air quality? Sadly, this title goes to Tiger Point in Santa Rosa County.

The Florida Town with the State’s Worst Air Quality

Tiger Point is a neighborhood in the city of Gulf Breeze, Florida. It is located at the end of the Fairpoint peninsula, right on Pensacola Beach’s doorstep. Tiger Point is a coastal neighborhood, so it’s a very sought-after area in Gulf Breeze. But unfortunately, this Florida town has the state’s worst air quality, ranking 46.3 on the Air Quality Index. While this score is not that high, long-term exposure still affects sensitive groups, like people with lung disease, seniors, and children.

You can see the whole town of Gulf Breeze in the view with a bridge in the far off distance.

Tiger Point, a neighborhood in the city of Gulf Breeze, Florida, has the worst air quality in the state.

10 Towns in Florida With the Worst Air Quality

Air Quality IndexTown
46.3Tiger Point, FL
45.9Crestview, FL
45.9Niceville, FL
45.8Destin, FL
45.8Elgin, FL
45.8Lake Lorraine, FL
45.8Miramar Beach, FL
45.8Shalimar, FL
45.8Valparaiso, FL
45.8Baker, FL

Tiger Point History

Tiger Point has a rich history. Tristian de Luna first arrived in the Pensacola Bay area with 500 Spanish soldiers in 1559. However,  due to hostile natives, disasters, and disease, the first settlement was abandoned. But, in the 1700s, the British settled on the peninsula and called it Town Point. Since then, the area has functioned in many different ways. For example, in 1828, President John Quincy Adams established the Naval Live Oaks Reservation, which served as the United State’s first experiment tree farm. It was necessary to provide raw materials for the Navy’s shipbuilding operation in the area. At present, the Naval Live Oaks is part of the National Park Service’s unit, the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

The city of Gulf Breeze derives its name from the Gulf Breeze Cottages and Store, which established a post office branch in 1936. It was situated in the spot where Beach Road Plaza is now. However, the population really started booming in 1960 when the improved bay bridge reopened.

Where is the Florida Town With the Worst Air Quality Located on a Map?

Tiger Point is a suburb of the city of Gulf Breeze, Florida, which is located west of Pensacola. Gulf Breeze is situated between English Navy Cove and Butcherpen Cove – part of Pensacola Bay. Pensacola and Navarre Beach are on an island to the south of Gulf Breeze that can be reached by bridge.

Effects of Bad Air Quality

Some people are more affected by air pollution than others. For example, people suffering from pre-existing lung or heart disease, seniors, children, and pregnant women. In addition, residents of low socioeconomic neighborhoods may be more susceptible to bad air quality because of factors like poor nutrition, proximity to industrial areas, stress, and underlying health issues.

The primary air pollutants causing health problems are:

  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
  • Fine Particles (PM2.5) – tiny particles that penetrate into the respiratory system
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

The leading causes of Florida’s bad air quality are:

  • Forest fires
  • Factories
  • Motor vehicles
  • Heating systems (wood, propane, oil)

Below is a table of the short and long-term effects of air pollution:

Short-term Effects of Air PollutionLong-term Effects of Air Pollution
DizzinessCancer
HeadacheNervous system damage
CoughingRespiratory diseases like emphysema or asthma
FatigueHarms your blood, spleen, and liver
Wheezing/trouble breathingBirth defects
Irritation to the nose, eyes, and throatCardiovascular damage

Tiger Point Population

Tiger Point is a small suburban community with a population of 3,470 individuals. However, the population is declining at a rate of 2.17% yearly from the 3,547 individuals recorded in 2020.

Wildlife Around Tiger Point

There is an abundance of wildlife around Tiger Point, not just marine animals. For example:

Ospreys

An osprey flies off with a kokanee salmon

Ospreys can be found in Pensacola.

Sighting an osprey was rare in this area for a long time, but they have rebounded in recent years. These birds can be found circling and diving for fish in the Gulf of Mexico, Santa Rosa Sound, and Pensacola Bay.

Sea Turtles

There are a few species of sea turtles that occur in Pensacola Bay, namely, Kemp’s Ridley, green, leatherback, and loggerhead turtles. They come to the area to lay their eggs near the sand dunes and return to the ocean a few hours after they bury their eggs. Each female can lay around 130 eggs. Then, their eggs will hatch about 60 to 80 days later. The hatchlings make a run for the water in the middle of the night, but many of them don’t make it as they are several predators looking for a quick meal.

Black Bears

As most people go to the Pensacola area for sun, fun, and the beach, they do not expect to run into a black bear while on vacation. But that’s exactly what happened to some holiday goers. In a video shared on Facebook, a dark-colored black bear can be seen running across the dunes, with a background view of the Gulf of Mexico.

Apparently, it’s not unusual for young bears to roam in areas where they don’t usually occur because they are exploring, looking for the perfect environment to establish a territory. In fact, there have been several sightings of black bears in Pensacola recently. As a result, authorities have received more than 160 calls regarding bears in Gulf Breeze and Pensacola over the last year.

American Alligator

While American alligators occur in this part of Florida, it is extremely rare to find them anywhere near a beach. Although these reptiles can tolerate brackish conditions, they tend to stay in their freshwater habitats found a bit further inland.

Venomous Snakes

There are four venomous snakes that occur in Florida:

  • Pigmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius)
  • Coral snakes (Micrurus fulvius)
  • Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorous)
  • Diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus adamanteus)

However, the southern copperhead (Agjustrodon c. contortrix) is also within range of Pensacola. Furthermore, the timber rattlesnake also occurs in the panhandle but is very rare.

Large Constrictors

Florida is also home to a few species of large constrictors like:

  • Pine snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus)
  • Rat snakes (Pantherophis sp.)
  • Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula ssp.)

These three species are the largest constrictors in the Pensacola area.

Rat snakes are brilliant climbers and often prey on nestlings, birds, and eggs. While pine snakes primarily prey on rodents, often following them into their burrows. The Kingsnake eats a variety of animals, including other snakes, lizards, and rodents. Out of the three species, the pine snake is most attracted to dry environments. Unlike pine snakes, rat snakes inhabit wet environments like forests and suburban areas. King snakes, on the other hand, prefer the best of both worlds and occur where these two habitats meet. Rat snakes grow incredibly large, often measuring around 7 feet. But kingsnakes or pine snakes only measure approximately 5 feet long.

Impact Air Pollution Has on Wildlife

People always talk about how air pollution affects humans, but what does it do to animals? Unfortunately, bad air quality impacts wildlife in the same negative ways as it does humans. For example, it can cause damage to an animal’s respiratory system, neurological issues, and skin irritation. In addition, long-term exposure to air pollution stunts the growth of plants and crops. This not only affects agriculture, grasslands, and forests, but it also impacts the wildlife that relies on them to survive. Lastly, bad air quality damages animals’ water, food sources, and habitat.

So, while Tiger Point is a peaceful community by the sea where people like to vacation and unwind, it is also a small town in Florida cursed with the worst air quality.


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About the Author

Chanel Coetzee is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily focusing on big cats, dogs, and travel. Chanel has been writing and researching about animals for over 10 years. She has also worked closely with big cats like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and tigers at a rescue and rehabilitation center in South Africa since 2009. As a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, Chanel enjoys beach walks with her Stafford bull terrier and traveling off the beaten path.

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