Report: The West Is the Worst for Air Quality

Thanks to longer fire seasons and increasingly intense blazes, Western states are experiencing the nation’s worst air quality.

2 minute read

April 27, 2022, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Kylie Mohr describes the findings of a report from the American Lung Association that assesses air quality around the United States. “Its “State of the Air” analysis looks at two of the six outdoor air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act, including both short-term spikes and annual levels of particle pollution, and ground-level ozone air pollution, often known as smog.”

According to the report, “More days with ‘very unhealthy’ and ‘hazardous’ air quality were documented than ever before recorded in the report’s 20-year existence.”

Altogether, almost 9 million more people were exposed to unhealthy levels of particulate pollution compared to previous reports, in large part due to breathing in wildfire smoke.

Mohr explains, “Emissions from transportation and power plants have fallen drastically since the implementation of the 1970 Clean Air Act, a comprehensive federal law that regulates sources of emissions. But in recent years, climate change-fueled increases in pollution are increasing public health challenges.” Consequently, “The urban, industrialized Eastern and Midwestern states are now getting passing grades compared to 15 years ago, while Western states now dominate the charts.”

Air pollution doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. “The report also reiterates the fact that socioeconomic inequalities exacerbate environmental harms. People of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county failing in at least one pollutant category, and over three times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three kinds of pollution.”

To improve these conditions, “The American Lung Association would like to see the EPA strengthen its air-quality standards for particulate matter and ozone as a first step.” The article acknowledges that “While that won’t begin to eliminate the particulate matter coming from the West’s increasingly severe wildfires, or wholly mitigate the climate’s impact on ozone pollution, actions from the individual to federal level could help move the needle toward a vision of clear valleys, cityscapes and sunsets.”

Thursday, April 21, 2022 in High Country News

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Aerial view of large homes surrounded by mature trees with Lake MIchigan shoreline at left.

Investors Snapping Up Record-High Number of Affordable Homes

High interest rates and record-high prices are driving investors to focus on homes in the lower price tier, exacerbating inventory shortages and pushing regular home buyers out of the market.

February 25, 2024 - Yahoo Finance

View from between tall white brick buildings in evening in downtown Los Angeles with modern office building across street.

Federal Office Conversion Program Slow to Start

To date, no loans have closed through a federal program meant to spur office-to-residential conversions.

4 hours ago - Bloomberg CityLab

Zebra crosswalk with raised curb extensions and bioswale on small street with parked cars and mature trees.

How Capturing Rainwater Can Make Cities Safer, More Resilient

Green infrastructure can help prevent flooding and replenish groundwater supplies, preventing subsidence that makes land sink.

6 hours ago - Wired

People in hoodies and jackets waiting for oncoming bus at sidewalk bus stop in Boston, Massachusetts.

Boston’s Blue Hill Avenue to Get BRT, Safety Improvements

The key bus corridor serves over 37,000 bus riders daily.

March 3 - WBUR

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.