New Report: North Dakota’s Air Quality Improves, Residents Exposed to Less Unhealthy Air Pollution

Lung Association “State of the Air” Report reveals that residents faced fewer days of poor air quality

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that North Dakota’s rankings improved for one of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution. The Bismarck and Fargo areas ranked as some of the cleanest cities in the country for both ozone and annual particulate pollution levels.

“When high, ozone or particle pollution can harm the health of all residents, but particularly at risk are children, older adults, pregnant people and those living with chronic disease,” said Jon Hunter, senior director of clean air for the Lung Association. “Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer. Fortunately, North Dakota has seen improving grades for particle pollution and continued its trend of no ozone issues.”

The “State of the Air” report is the Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” that tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog), annual particle pollution (also known as soot), and short-term spikes in particle pollution, over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2018-2020. 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution
All the counties with complete data for the three years received A grades, as they did in the 2021 report. This is a result of having no days when the air pollution levels exceeded the current health standards for ozone pollution.

Particle Pollution Improves in Several Counties
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Five counties improved their grades with short-term particle pollution in this year’s report, which means there were fewer unhealthy days. Those counties are Billings, Burleigh, Dunn, McKenzie, and Mercer. Looking at the annual measurement of particle pollution levels, the 2022 “State of the Air” ranked Bismarck as 8th and Fargo as 25th cleanest cities in the U.S. for year-round particle pollution.  

The report found that nationwide, nearly 9 million more people were impacted by deadly particle pollution than reported last year. It also shows more days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality than ever before in the two-decade history of this report. Overall, more than 137 million Americans live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. Communities of color are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air. The report found that people of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant, and 3.6 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three pollutants.

The addition of 2020 data to the 2022 “State of the Air” report gives a first look at air quality trends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the shutdowns in early 2020, there was no obvious improvement. 

The Lung Association is calling on the Biden administration to strengthen the national limits on both short-term and year-round particulate matter air pollution. Stronger standards will educate the public about air pollution levels that threaten their health and drive the cleanup of polluting sources in communities across the country. See the full report results and sign the petition at

For more information, contact:

Dana Kauffman
[email protected]

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