How is the air quality where you live? You may not even think about it, but the air you breathe affects your health in important ways.
Find out about the implications of air quality with this guide to understanding pollution and the air quality index.
The state of the air
Each year the American Lung Association publishes a "State of the Air" report detailing the best and worst U.S. cities for air quality. To determine what constitutes good or bad air quality in a city, the report looks at two types of pollution in cities across the United States: particle pollution and ozone.
If you've ever looked at the dirty, smoky air that's released from a factory smokestack or a truck exhaust pipe, then you've seen particle pollution. Exposure to particle pollution diminishes lung function and contributes to various health problems, including heart issues, coughing and wheezing.
Ozone, the other type of pollution measured in the State of the Air report, is a gas molecule. When fossil fuels like gasoline, coal or oil are burned, the chemicals produced undergo a reaction and turn into harmful ozone. Ozone exposure contributes to the effects of asthma, coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain.
Best cities for air quality
Some of the major cities rated as "cleanest" by the American Lung Association include beautiful locales like:
For a full list, click here to view the State of the Air report.
You might feel better knowing that the overall air quality of the U.S. is improving. 17 of the American Lung Association's top 25 most polluted cities saw their lowest-ever levels of pollution in 2012. Knowing that might help you breathe a bit easier!