It's not as bad as some years, yet Montana's persistent problem with regional fire smoke during the hot, dry summers continues to cause breathing problems, with Missoula being singled out on the "most polluted cities" list for air quality.

The listing is in the annual "State of the Air" report, released every spring by the American Lung Association with the 2024 ratings issued this week.

And while Missoula continues in the "Top 25" list, several other Northwest cities are now consistently ranked poorly because of the major blazes in recent fire seasons.

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What's this report about?

The ALA report ranks cities and counties, based on ozone and particle pollution readings, which can have a major impact on people, especially those more vulnerable to creating problems with asthma, COPD, and other respiratory problems.

Montana has always been in the crosshairs of those findings because of the particulate pollution readings, which are based on high year-round average levels, and short-term levels over 24-hour periods. This is the major problem for Missoula in particular, because of the potential for not only local wildfires but summer weather patterns that can carry regional smoke from Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California fires.

RELATED: Missoula County Receives Grants to Help with Smoke Impacts

Missoula just out of the Top 10 "most polluted"

Nearly 4 in 10 people in the country live in places with "unhealthy levels" of air pollution according to ALA. Last year was the worst in 25 years of the report, largely because of the unprecedented impacts of massive Canadian fires last summer.

Although Montana experienced some of that smoke, a fairly "quiet" fire season didn't make the problem as bad as for the state;'s further east.

Still, Missoula is at #15 on the "most polluted cities" list, coming in just ahead of Spokane, and just behind Seattle-Tacoma, which was hammered by regional fire smoke in 2023. Missoula is the only Montana city on the list. Missoula was #14 for "short-term particle pollution", right behind Seattle.

Last year, Missoula was also #15, behind Spokane. And the 2018 report had Missoula at #12  reflecting the record Montana fire season of 2017 when hundreds of thousands of acres burned.

The Top 5 "most polluted" cities are Bakersfield and Fresno, in California, Fairbanks, Alaska, Eugene, Oregon and Visalia, California. All of the "25 worst" cities are in the Western U.S.

10 Montana Cities Ranked by How Diverse They Are

Montana may not be known for its diversity but it is interesting to see the diversity within the state. WalletHub did a 2024 study of diversity in U.S. cities and we've pulled out the Montana cities below. Not all variables from the study are included, but you can get an idea of how diverse each city is.

Gallery Credit: Ashley