Despite being the second largest city in Arizona, Tucson maintains what is considered “good” air qualityor having low pollutionfor the majority of the year.

According to data from Making Action Possible (MAP) for Southern Arizonaa project headed by the University of ArizonaTucson had good air quality days over 50% of the time in 2022.

For good or moderate days in the same year, it was over 96% of the time.

Natalie Shepp with the Pima County Department Environmental Quality said they continuously advise residents to do their part in reducing pollutants.

We do a pretty good job of promoting alternate modes,” she said, referencing the 1989 Clean Air Program that encourages people to reduce their vehicle emissions.

“We have a free bus system. We have a lot of people who are interested in helping reduce the amount of air pollution we have. They carpool, they telecommute, they do the things that we suggest.”

In the same MAP data, Tucson tied with Albuquerque for fourth place among 12 metropolitan cities in the Western part of the U.S.

Phoenix ranked last with under 19% of good air quality days last year.

Spikes in pollution happen more so in the summertime when the high temperatures raise ozone levels, but Tucson rarely enters the red zone unless a dust storm blows in.

“That happens with our monsoon storms, and then we can see those spikes,” Shepp said. “Typically those are pretty short-lived. Oftentimes, those are followed by rain, which is helpful.”

Currently, the department has 16 sensors that monitor the air quality year-round.

But thanks to a new grant awarded by the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health, the team will buy additional sensors and install them at 20 different schools.

So we will have better data on kind of the localized air pollution and how different neighborhoods vary. Because if you just look at Eastern Pima County, and you look at the 16 monitors we have, its somewhat of a representative sample,” Shepp said.

“But its not a representative sample for that finer scale for those neighborhoods. And we particularly want to know whats going on at schools.

Children among older people and those with pre-existing conditions, like asthma and heart diseases are more sensitive to bad air quality and should take more precautions.

Shepp said the sensorswhich will be ready in the next 3-4 monthscould help them identify environmental justice issues if certain demographics are living closer to more sources of air pollution, like the freeway, airport or landfill.

Air quality can be checked daily on