This website uses cookies. By continuing you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

Missoula Air Quality Ties for Worst Ever Recorded, According to 2019 ‘State of the Air’ Report

Wildfires impact worsening air quality

(April 24, 2019) - MISSOULA, Mont.

For more information please contact:

Holly Harvey
[email protected]
(206) 512-3292

The American Lung Association’s 20th Anniversary “State of the Air” 2019 report found that the Missoula area is now the fifth most polluted in the country for short-term particle pollution and tied for the 11th most-polluted area for annual particle pollution.

The annual air quality “report card” tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Missoula County had its most short-term particle pollution days ever recorded, with a weighted average of 16.5 days in 2015-2017, more than twice the number of days in 2014-2016. Many of these spikes were directly linked to events like wildfires, which are increasing in frequency and intensity in many areas due to climate change.

“Missoula residents should know that we’re breathing unhealthy air, driven by wildfires as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk,” said Carrie Nyssen, Senior Director for Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Montana. “Across the state, many areas have seen their air quality worsen dramatically. We have to do more to protect people’s lives and public health.”

This year, Montana is home to six of the 25 counties in the U.S. most polluted by short-term particle pollution. Ravalli County is the third most polluted county. Lewis and Clark County and Missoula County round out the top 10 at seventh and ninth respectively. Lincoln, Silverbow and Flathead County are 14th, 18th and 23rd respectively, all worse than last year’s report. 

Each year the “State of the Air” provides a report card on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution, also known as smog, and particle pollution, also called soot. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can increase the risk of premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.

“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal,” said Nyssen. “The American Lung Association calls for the Administration and Congress to adopt science-based solutions to reduce emissions that are causing climate change and to ensure that no community near a polluting source gets left behind. Action taken now can help prevent the worst impacts of climate change.”

Conversely, Missoula had no unhealthy ozone days, and ranked among the cleanest cities for ozone in the nation as it has for each year data has been available. Ozone levels increased in most cities nationwide, in large part due to the record-breaking global heat experienced in the three years tracked in the report.

Learn more about Missoula’s rankings, as well as air quality across Montana and the nation, in the 2019 “State of the Air” report at For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, and threats to air quality, contact Holly Harvey at [email protected] or 206-512-3292.

Ten most polluted cities for short-term particle pollution
1.   Bakersfield, CA
2.   Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA §
3.   Fairbanks, AK
4.   San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA §
5.   Missoula, MT
6.   Yakima, WA
7.   Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
8.   Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, UT*
9.   Seattle-Tacoma, WA
10.  Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV


About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

Red button with telephone
Ask An Expert

Questions about your lung health? Need help finding healthcare? Call 1-800-LUNGUSA.

Get help
Red button of two hand prints
We need your generous support

Make a difference by delivering research, education and advocacy to those impacted by lung disease.

Button of turquoise LUNG FORCE swirl

LUNG FORCE unites women and their loved ones across the country to stand together in the fight against lung cancer.

Get involved
Join the fight for healthy lungs and healthy air.
Donate Now.