Air Quality

Pinpoint Shadow  Explore Data on Air Quality in Tucson, Arizona MSA

How are we doing?

Percentage of Good Air Quality Days (2023)


In 2023, Tucson’s air quality was rated “good” 46.6% of the time. That ranked the Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seventh out of 12 western MSAs in the percent of good air quality days. Portland ranked first with 75.6%, while Phoenix ranked last with only 11.2% of days considered “good”. According to the Air Quality Index (AQI), good air quality days occur when air quality is satisfactory and air pollution poses little or no threat. The AQI has six rankings: good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, and hazardous. Tucson’s percentage of good air quality days in 2023 was a decrease from last year’s rate of 51.8%. Prolonged smoke during fires in the Tucson MSA region has contributed to the decline in air quality over the past few years.

Why is it important?  

Air quality is vitally important to the well-being of a region’s residents. It is a particularly important health concern to those who have sensitivity to air pollution due to respiratory or other conditions. Air pollution can cause loss of productivity due to illness, as well as damage to buildings and crops, making it a hazard not only to the environment but also to the economy. Traffic congestion, smoke, and pollution from industrial factories and refineries all play a part in air quality.

How do we compare?

The Tucson MSA posted 98.1% of days classified as good or moderate air quality in 2023, with 1.9% ranked unhealthy for sensitive groups, and no days that were very unhealthy. Of the western MSAs, Phoenix reported the highest rate of unhealthy and very unhealthy days in 2023 at 23.3%. According to a report by the American Lung Association, Phoenix has a high level of Ozone which is brought on by warm temperatures. Very unhealthy days indicate a health alert in which all residents may experience serious health effects.

What are the key trends?

The percentage of air quality days rated “good” for the Tucson MSA has been volatile in recent years, reaching a peak of 67.4% in 2015 and then sharply decreasing to a 20-year low of 39.2% in 2021. The percentage of good air quality days showed some improvement in 2022 and 2023 but was still well below the trend before 2017. Tucson moved from a fourth-place rank among the 12 western MSAs in 2019 to seventh place in 2023. Phoenix retained its last-place ranking among the 12 MSAs tracked on the MAP in the percentage of good air quality days in 2023 and also continues to struggle nationally.

How is it measured?

Air quality data come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index Report, which is an annual summary of AQI values for four major air pollutants, though many areas do not have monitoring stations for all pollutants. The AQI has a range of 0-500 broken down into six levels: good (0-50), moderate (51-100), unhealthy for sensitive groups (101-150), unhealthy (151-200), very unhealthy (201-300), and hazardous (301-500).  The AQI for ozone was updated by the EPA in 2016, this update applied to all historical data.