Cayenna Johnson remembers clearly the day last summer, when Colorado had the worst air quality in the world. The Aurora resident had taken her kids backpacking in Jefferson County, trying to enjoy the fresh mountain air that Colorado summers are known for. But they could see the pollution in the air and feel it in their lungs. “It was very dystopian,” she says.
That day, August 7, wildfire smoke had been pouring in from the megafires in California, and hot weather meant that ground-level ozone pollution was at unhealthy levels.
Unfortunately, that day wasn’t unique. Throughout much of the summer of 2021, the air quality in Colorado’s Front Range was so unsafe officials warned people to stay inside. The summer of 2021 set a new record of 65 ozone action days where the air was unhealthy to breathe.
In neighborhoods like Commerce City, Globeville, and Elyria-Swansea, the smoke and the ozone compounded the toxic industrial pollution residents have been breathing in high concentrations for years. The mountains didn’t necessarily offer an escape from air pollution, either. Multiple Western Slope Counties experienced terrible air quality throughout last summer, and received low grades for ozone from the American Lung Association. Throughout Colorado, terrible air quality is threatening our health and our way of life.
There’s good news, though. We have the power to clean up our air. Many of our air quality problems are local issues that can be drastically improved if we take the right steps.
Our state leaders need to pass policies that cut pollution now—particularly for the communities that are located closest to sources of local air pollution. By cleaning up our air now, we’ll also be protecting our climate and helping future generations breathe easier.
Coloradans need clean air—now. Learn how we’re fighting for the solutions to some of Colorado’s worst air quality problems, and how you can help!