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New Report: Des Moines Named One of Least Polluted Cities

American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” reports zero unhealthy ozone days

(April 24, 2019) - DES MOINES, Iowa

For more information please contact:

Jill Thompson
[email protected]

The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report revealed that Des Moines one of the cleanest cities in the nation for ozone pollution. The 20th annual report found that Des Moines had zero unhealthy ozone days between 2015-2017. 

“While Des Moines is one of the cleanest cities in the country for air quality, resident should be aware that unhealthy air quality days can happen as a result of high heat, power plant emissions and wildfires in the western U.S.,” said Micki Sandquist, executive director for the Lung Association. “In addition to air quality here in Des Moines, the 20th-anniversary ‘State of the Air’ report highlights that more than four in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air, and we’re heading in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting public health.”

The annual “State of the Air” report tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of ozone or particle pollution, both of which can be deadly. This year’s report covers the most recent quality-assured data available collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2015-2017. Notably, those three years were the hottest recorded in global history. 

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.

Ozone Pollution in Des Moines

  • Grade: A

Similar to the 2018 report, Des Moines zero unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. 

“Ozone especially harms children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Sandquist. “When older adults or children with asthma breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room. Ozone can even shorten life itself.” 

This report documents how warmer temperatures brought by climate change make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up. This year’s report showed that 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. 

  • Particle Pollution in Des Moines
    • Short-Term Particle Pollution
    • Grade: B 
    • Rank: 69th most polluted
  • Year-Round Particle Pollution
    • Grade: Pass 
    • Rank: 149th most polluted

The 2019 report also found Des Moines had slightly worse levels of short-term particle pollution compared to the 2018 report, and slightly better levels of year-round particle pollution. 

“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 Sandquist. “Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines.”

While the report examined data from 2015-2017, this 20th annual report online provides information on air pollution trends back to the first report. Learn more about Des Moines’ rankings, as well as air quality across Iowa and the nation, in the 2019 “State of the Air” report at 


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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