Bismarck, Fargo among cleanest US cities for low air pollution levels, report finds

In the American Lung Association's newest air pollution report, Bismarck ranked eighth and Fargo ranked 25th for cleanest U.S. cities for year-round particle pollution, according to data from 2018
Motorists travel west under smoky conditions along 13th Avenue in West Fargo on Friday, July 30. Canadian wildfires caused unhealthy air conditions across eastern North Dakota and Minnesota multiple times last July.
David Samson / The Forum
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BISMARCK — Bismarck and Fargo ranked among the cleanest cities in the U.S. for its low levels of year-round harmful air pollution, according to a new report by the American Lung Association.

Each year, the American Lung Association releases an air pollution "report card" which details levels of smog and particle pollution in the U.S. and the effects they have on people's health. In its latest 2022 report, which analyzed data from 2018 to 2020, Bismarck ranked eighth and Fargo ranked 25th for cleanest U.S. cities for year-round particle pollution. The ALA says particle pollution comes from a variety of sources, such as gas-powered vehicles, factories, power plants and wildfires, and it can cause breathing problems, illness and an increased risk of hospitalization.

The North Dakota Department of Health monitors air pollution for 10 of North Dakota's 53 counties, nine of which had complete data included in the report. Five counties, Billings, Burleigh, Dunn, McKenzie and Mercer, were given better grades for particle pollution compared to last year's report, the ALA said.

In addition to particle pollution, the report analyzed the nation's levels of smog, which is also known as ozone air pollution. Ozone gas can cause lung irritation and breathing problems.

All nine of North Dakota's counties with complete data in the report were given an "A" for low levels of ozone pollution.


State of the Air Report 2022 by inforumdocs on Scribd

Both particle pollution and smog are prevalent in communities across the U.S., with more than 137 million people living in counties with unhealthy levels of both types of pollutants, according to the report. People of color are disproportionately exposed to air with unhealthy levels of particle and smog pollution, the report states.

"Fortunately, North Dakota has seen improving grades for particle pollution and continued its trend of no ozone issues," said Jon Hunter, American Lung Association's senior director of clean air, in a statement.

The report also includes some information about the COVID-19 pandemic and how air pollutants are harmful to a person's immune system. Data from 2020 indicate that the initial lock down period at the start of the pandemic did not greatly affect air quality, the report states.

Because many Americans live in counties with a high prevalence of air pollution, the American Lung Association recommends individuals and governmental entities at all levels take action to clean up air pollution.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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