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The States With the Best and Worst Air Quality—What You Can Do About It

You Might Be Surprised at the Results of Each State's Air Quality Index

states with best and worst air quality

An assumption about air quality is that the more urbanized a population center is, the more likely it is that people are inhaling polluted air. Urbanized areas or population centers often have high vehicle traffic and industrial operations that may contribute to poor air quality. However, when air filter company Air Filters Delivered analyzed data from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's AirNow survey according to ZIP code, along with data from an America's Health Rankings study on air pollution, their findings didn't match this assumption.

Measuring Air Quality Is More Than City Pollution

states with best and worst air quality

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is used to measure air quality in specified locations. The AQI is an index calculated for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act—ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. A state's AQI is represented by a value from zero to 500. A value of zero equates to clean air while 500, the maximum value, means the air is most hazardous.

A state's air quality may also be measured using the EPA's Air Quality System (AQS), according to Air Filters Delivered. Using the air pollution data collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states, local agencies, and other publicly available databases, Air Filters Delivered was able to rank each state for the following metrics:

· Carbon dioxide emissions

· Cigarette usage among adults

· Air pollution

· Air Quality Index (AQI)

· Rate of lung cancer cases

The metrics above don't contribute equally to air quality. To measure air quality appropriately, Air Filters Delivered placed a larger emphasis on pollution, weighing this at 80 percent, and put less emphasis on metrics like cigarette usage and lung cancer data, weighing these collectively at 20 percent.

States With the Best and Worst Air Quality

states with best and worst air quality

Based on the Air Quality Index (AQI) alone, Air Filters Delivered reports that the following states have the best air quality, along with their respective AQI value:

1. Hawaii—21.2

2. Alaska—29.1

3. Washington—33.5

4. Oregon—36.1

5. Maine—36.5

Additionally, Honolulu, Hawaii is one of six cities in the U.S. ranked highest on all three of the American Lung Association's cleanest cities list for ozone, year-round particle pollution, and short-term particle pollution. In the U.S., breathing in the air in Hawaii is as clean as it gets. Yet even if a state has a generally low AQI value, there could still be some in-state areas where the air may be more polluted. Meanwhile, the following states have the worst air quality according to AQI:

1. Utah—51.2

2. Ohio—48.2

3. Georgia—48.2

4. West Virginia—47.6

5. Indiana—47.5

The ratings above are based solely on the AQI. When the Air Quality System (AQS) is used, the states' rankings differ significantly. AQS ranks the air quality of each state by considering the state's AQI, carbon dioxide emissions, rate of lung cancer cases, among other metrics.

Below are the five states with the best air quality using the AQS, according to Air Filters Delivered:

1. Maine

2. Massachusetts

3. Hawaii

4. New York

5. New Hampshire

While Maine ranked fifth based on AQI, it holds the top spot when ranked by AQS. Massachusetts, New York, and New Hampshire did not rank in the top 5 when measured by AQI but hold spots two, four, and five, respectively, when ranked by AQS.

Protection Against Poor Indoor Air Quality

states with best and worst air quality

The quality of the air you breathe outdoors is mostly out of your control. When indoors, you could control air quality with air filters, purifiers, and proper ventilation. Consider the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) when evaluating which filter is right for your home or office. The higher the MERV rating, the more air pollutants the filter is capable of trapping to give your indoor space better air quality.

Air Filters Delivered offers filters with MERV ratings of 8, 11, or 13. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a MERV rating of eight could trap dust mites and common household dust, while a MERV rating of 13 is capable of trapping even microsize bacteria and virus carriers. Air Filters Delivered also provides custom filters, so you can find whichever size, depth, and MERV rating you need. The EPA specifically recommends upgrading your home HVAC system air filter to at least a MERV rating of 13 or higher. This could "improve the system's efficacy in removing viruses from circulated air," according to the EPA.

Living in one of the states with the cleanest air quality is beneficial to your health, according to the American Lung Association. There is less air pollution and fewer air particles that could affect your well-being. Regardless of where your state ranks on the list of best outdoor air quality, it's always a good idea to create better indoor air quality. Replacing and using proper HVAC filters could filter out smoke, smog, household dust, and even virus carrier particles.

Breathe cleaner air indoors with Air Filters Delivered. Shop by MERV rating or create your custom filter here. Use promo code NEWSWEEK10 for 10 percent off, and free shipping on all MERV 13 filters.

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