Mountain West towns heavily polluted by smog, particles from wildfire smoke, report says

More than a third of Americans, or 131 million people, live in cities with unhealthy air pollution. That’s according to the American Lung Association’s latest “State of the Air” report, an annual “report card” on air quality nationwide.

The spikes in deadly particle pollution are the most severe ever recorded in the organization’s 25-year history of producing the report, which uses pollution data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Climate change is causing more dangerous air pollution,” Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in a news release. “Every day that there are unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution means that someone – a child, a grandparent, an uncle or a mother – is having trouble breathing. We must do more to ensure clean air for everyone.

“State of the Air” measures three types of pollution: short-term particulate matter, such as smoke from wildfires; particles present all year round, such as pollution from industrial installations; and ground-level ozone pollution, or smog.

In the Mountain West region, several cities were among the 25 most polluted in at least one pollution category. Las Vegas and Reno placed in all three categories.

“What’s really killing us is the fires,” said Matthew Strickland, an environmental epidemiologist at the University of Nevada, Reno. “So there are real concerns about everything from respiratory disease to cardiovascular disease to a wide range of potential health impacts, such as mortality.”

Notably, a few Mountain West cities have the cleanest air in the country in the year-round particle pollution category. This includes Casper, Wyoming (2nd), Cheyenne, Wyoming (6th), Colorado Springs (8th), St. George, Utah (9th) and Grand Junction, Colorado (12th).

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliated stations in the area. . Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Public Broadcasting Company.

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