Western WA had among worst air quality in U.S. due to wildfire season, data shows

A view of the Downtown Seattle skyline from the Rizal Bridge, seen during smoky conditions caused by wildfires in the Western U.S. (Bruce Englehardt // CC BY-SA 4.0)

Data from the American Lung Association shows that Seattle, Tacoma, Yakima and Bellingham had among the worst air quality in the U.S. due to last year’s wildfire season.

In the short-term, Yakima ranked ninth in the U.S. for worst particle pollution, with the Seattle-Tacoma area at 16th, the Vancouver-Portland area at 19th and Bellingham at 24th. However, in charting larger patterns of air quality, Yakima ranked 21st in the U.S. for the worst long-term particle pollution.

Washington weathered a devastating wildfire season in the summer of 2021, but still fared better than California and Colorado. Record-breaking wildfires choked communities with smoke and raining ash.

The Lung Association warns particle pollution can cause early death, heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits.

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According to their data, all but one Washington county monitored by the nonprofit organization received an ‘F’ for air quality grade, based on the number of days recorded at ‘orange,’ ‘red,’ ‘purple’ and ‘maroon’ levels on the Air Quality Index (AQI).

Clark, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Okanogan, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, Stevens, Whatcom and Yakima counties all received an ‘F’ rating for air quality.

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Only Skagit County received a ‘D’ grade, but ALA notes their data is incomplete for the county.

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The worst city in the U.S. by ozone is the Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA area; by year-round particle pollution it is Bakersfield, CA. The worst city in the U.S. for short-term particle pollution is the Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA.