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2024 Montana Primary elections
Montana news about the environment, natural resources, wildlife, climate change and more.

Montana's air quality receives failing grade in national report card

In a national report card looking at air quality, parts of Montana received failing grades.

The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2024 report gathers data collected by state, federal and tribal governments on air quality metrics over the last three years.

The report shows that 139 million Americans are breathing polluted air.

Data for 12 out of Montana's 56 counties was included in the report. Most received failing grades for high amounts of particle pollution, or particulate matter.

Dr. Rob Byron is an internal medicine doctor in Hardin and vice chair of Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate.

“These particles get inside our body, we breathe them in. They have been found within people’s brains, inside the blood brain barrier and they have been found on the fetal side of the placenta in pregnant women,” Byron said.

Exposure to particulates has been associated with birth defects, lung and pulmonary conditions, heart attacks, strokes and increases in dementia. Research has shown the majority of Montana’s pollution is particulate matter from wildfires and winter inversions.

According to the American Lung Association, air quality in Missoula can become some of the worst in the nation among measured cities.

Byron said this report illustrates the need for action to clean up air quality, and that doing so has been shown to have immediate health benefits.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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