America's cleanest cities

When it comes to ozone levels and year-round smog, these cities have the top air quality in the nation, according to the American Lung Association's State of the Air rankings for 2012.

Santa Fe
Santa Fe
Population: 184,416

If you're looking to breathe easier, look no further than Santa Fe. It took the top spot for cleanest air in all three of the American Lung Association's pollution categories: ozone, as well as short-term and year-round particle pollution (see footnote).

"We don't have any dirty industries here," said Richard Goodyear, chief of the Air Quality Bureau for the state's environmental agency.

In fact, the closest major power plant is about 200 miles away in the northwest corner of the state, he said.

The state's strict emission standards can also be credited for its high air quality. According to Goodyear, New Mexico's rules are more stringent for nitrous oxide and other pollutants than those of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Year-round particle pollution is in the air we breathe and consists of such things as dust, metals, smoke, exhaust, pollen and acids, like nitrates and sulfates. Short-term particle pollution is measured over a 24-hour period. Ozone is created when a chemical or fossil fuel, like coal or gasoline, is partially burned and the unburned hydrocarbons, when combined with ultraviolet light, form a gas that is corrosive to lungs.
By Les Christie @CNNMoney - Last updated April 26 2012: 11:47 AM ET
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10 most polluted cities

These 10 cities had the highest levels of year-round pollution, according to the American Lung Association.

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