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Wildfires Give North Dakota Failing Grades For Air Quality

(April 19, 2017) -

Media contact: Robert Moffitt (651) 269-7561

BISMARCK, ND – (April 19, 2017) – North Dakota usually earns good marks in the annual American Lung Association State of the Air Report, but that’s not the case this year.  Burke, Dunn and Williams counties received “F” grades for particulate pollution, Burleigh, McKenzie, Mercer, and Oliver counties all received a “D” grade.  Of the nine counties in North Dakota that have air quality monitors that supply data to state and federal government, only Billings and Cass counties got a passing grade with a “C.”  In grades for ozone pollution, North Dakota did much better, all “A” grades, with the exception of Dunn and Oliver counties, each earning a “B” grade.  The full report can be found online at

The cause for the dramatic tumble in grades in this year’s report is fairly simple to determine – smoke from wildfires caused short-term spikes in particulate pollution in most of North Dakota during the reporting period. The hardest hit county was Dunn County, with 10 Orange Alerts and one Red Alert for air quality.  Burke County had five Orange Alerts and four Red Alerts, and Williams County had seven Orange Alerts and two Red Alerts.  None of the nine North Dakota counties monitored reached Purple, the most severe level of short term pollution warning.

The State of the Air Report covers a three year period from 2013 to 2015, analyzing data collected at air quality monitors operated by the State Department of Health and certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Grades are determined by the number of air quality alerts for ozone or particle pollution that occurred during those three years. 

“While smoke from wildfires is usually a short-term air quality problem, it can also be a very serious one, especially for those living with lung disease,” said Robert Moffitt, communications director for the American Lung Association in North Dakota. “Also, it is important to remember that climate scientists warn that we are likely to see even more wildfire smoke, as well as more severe heat, storms, and longer allergy and tick seasons. Unless we make some changes, poor grades for air quality could become the norm for North Dakota.”

The North Dakota Department of Health has set up a web page with information on current wildfire smoke impacts that outlines steps that individuals can take to protect their families and themselves from excessive smoke inhalation. 


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