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Time to give up backyard fire pit? New air pollution reports mix good news, warnings

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A new report from the American Lung Association shows some improvements in air quality in Minnesota's urban areas, but Ramsey County had poor grades for fine particle pollution for the third year in a row, MPR reports.

The annual "State of the Air" report released Wednesday focuses on two forms of air pollution: ozone and fine particle pollution.

Overall, the Twin Cities' air ranked 42nd most polluted on a list of 235 cities, the Pioneer Press reported. That's an improvement – the metro ranked 36th last year.

The grades for Washington and Anoka counties slipped from an A to a B, the newspaper reported. The only other metro county graded for ozone was Scott, which earned an A.

The Pioneer Press reports that the Blaine area is consistently the area's worst for ozone, said Robert Moffitt, a spokesman for the American Lung Association in Minnesota, perhaps because of southerly winds that blow in dirty air from the core cities.

Duluth made the list of cleanest cities for both ozone and year-round particle pollution. Rochester was among the cleanest cities for ozone pollution.

Meanwhile, another report prepared for release this week suggests that air pollution from Minnesota's large single sources such as power plants and factories has fallen significantly, in part due to new regulations and technologies, the Star Tribune reports.

But other Minnesota polluters remain a problem, including: homeowners, commuters, landscapers, small-business owners, school buses and backyard fires, the Star Tribune says. The newspaper reports that unless Twin Cities residents get serious about giving up old lawn mowers, wood-burning stoves and diesel engines, the state of Minnesota could face costs of up to $240 million a year to meet tough new federal clean air requirements.

Nationwide, the Lung Association report says air pollution remains a pervasive public health threat, and that many cities that ranked among the most polluted had more unhealthy days of high ozone (smog) and short-term particle pollution than in the 2012 report.

But the report has some good news about a long-term trend toward healthier air: "Significant progress has been made to reduce year-round particle pollution (soot) across the nation."

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