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Air Pollution Down In US Except For Wildfire Regions

Smoke column from the High Park Fire near Fort Collins, CO in 2012
Creative Commons 2.0
Smoke column from the High Park Fire near Fort Collins, CO in 2012

A new study shows air pollution like soot, dust and smoke is down around the country with one exception: wildfire prone areas like the Mountain West.  

Dan Jaffe is an environmental chemist and researcher on the study. He said implementation of the Clean Air Act is largely responsible for air pollution going down in the United States overall. But in the West, we’re seeing worsening air quality because of wildfire smoke.

The study shows the region that’s most being affected by smoke and by deteriorating air quality is northern California, Nevada, Oregon, eastern Washington, parts of Utah, parts of Colorado, almost all of Idaho, all of Montana, and all of Wyoming.

Jaffe says this is a concern because it’s affecting people’s health in the West and because it’s part of a larger pattern.

“It’s all related back to climate change,” he said, “and how we manage our forests.”

Wildfires have already ravaged areas of the Mountain West this summer and other areas are still on high alert.

To find the Air Quality Index in your state, you can visit

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2020 91.5 KRCC. To see more, visit .

Ali Budner is KRCC's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism collaborative that unites six stations across the Mountain West, including stations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana to better serve the people of the region. The project focuses its reporting on topic areas including issues of land and water, growth, politics, and Western culture and heritage.