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Montana Cities Receive Mixed Grades in Air Quality Report

Despite continued improvement in air quality, residents health remains at risk from unhealthy air, according to American Lung Associations 19th annual air quality report.

(April 18, 2018) - MISSOULA, MT

For more information please contact:

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

The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2018 report shows that Montana continues to have unhealthy levels of particle pollution, putting communities and residents at risk.  This report 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.

The city of Missoula ranks as the 12th most polluted for short-term particle pollution, an improvement over last year’s ranking with fewer unhealthy days on average. Missoula is tied for the 28th most polluted city for year-round particle pollution. This area also had no unhealthy ozone days, and ranked among the cleanest cities for ozone in the nation.

Four Montana counties were included in the top 25 Counties Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution: Ravalli (9th), Lincoln (17th), Lewis & Clark (19th), and Missoula (22nd). Lincoln County ranked on both lists for counties with the worst year-round and short-term particle pollution. 

The trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2014-2016, reflect the ongoing challenges to reduce each pollutant in the changing political and outdoor climate. It is important to note that the historic wildfires of 2017 were not captured in this year’s report.

The Grades:

Ozone. No unhealthy ozone days were recorded in Montana and all counties evaluated received an A.

Particle Pollution (year-round). All Montana counties evaluated received a passing grade.

Particle Pollution (short-term). The report provided the following grades to Montana counties for short-term particle pollution levels:

Fergus                         F
Flathead                      F
Lewis and Clark          F
Lincoln                         F
Missoula                      F
Phillips                         F
Powder River              D
Ravalli                         F
Richland                      D
Rosebud                      C
Silver Bow                   F

“The 2018 ‘State of the Air’ report finds that unhealthful levels of pollution in Montana puts residents at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and greater difficulty breathing for those living with a lung disease like COPD,” said Ronni Flannery, Director of the Heathy Air Campaign in Montana. “Across the nation, the report found continued improvement in air quality, but still, more than four in 10 Americans – 133.9 million – live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution, where their health is at risk.”

“We can and should do more to protect our public health from the harms of air pollution,” Flannery continued.  “The Lung Association urges Congress to defend and strengthen the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act has seen multiple threats to weaken this vital and effective public health law. The Lung Association also calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement and enforce current laws instead of repealing major safeguards like the Clean Power Plan and cleaner cars, both vital and important to fight climate change and reduce air pollution.” 

The results serve as a strong reminder that addressing climate change and its impacts on our air quality are key to the fight for healthy air. Climate change is known to cause increased heat, changes in weather patterns, drought and wildfires, which contributed to the extraordinarily high numbers of days with unhealthy particle pollution in many parts of Montana. Many of these spikes were directly linked to wildfire events, which are likely to increase because of climate change.

For more information about Montana’s local air quality data and grades for each county and metropolitan area, visit For media interested in speaking with an expert, please contact Holly Harvey at the American Lung Association at (206) 512-3292 or [email protected].


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:

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