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Inhale, Exhale

Written by Salina Shafi

Edited by Shania Sheth and Sharon Park


Hi everyone! This article by Salina is the third article in our Environmental Health series, which covers how the environment can impact human health and wellbeing. Please read on to learn about how pollution has impacted those living in Denver, Colorado.



As technology continues to advance, people are constantly venturing through different forms of media. It is not uncommon for people to be endlessly scrolling on social media, just moving on from one video to another until something catches their eye. A similar phenomenon happened to me, I was mindlessly scrolling through social media until I saw a post that claimed that Denver had one of the worst air qualities in the entire world. Now imagine being someone who is born in Denver and goes to school in Denver. It got me thinking about pollution and the air quality of the city I spent so much time in. Is the air quality really that bad or was this just Clickbait? This one post fueled my search for the real answer. What was the air quality like in Denver and why was it this way?

Wait, why is this happening?

Fun fact, Denver is known as the mile high city because the altitude is at 5280 feet, which is exactly one mile. Denver is also the capital of Colorado, one of the 50 states in the US.

​​The state of Colorado has had an air quality issue for some time now, it even has been failing to meet federal standards for air that is safe to breathe. Because of the high altitude of Denver, it is prone to temperature inversions which is a process where warm air traps cooler air. This process prevents pollutants from rising into the atmosphere. They are trapped below. Ground level ozone is a pollutant that can trigger short-term respiratory symptoms like scratchy throats, coughs, and having difficulty breathing, as well as causing lung diseases and asthma.

I-25 is a major highway that connects many states, so there are a lot of trucks and traffic passing through Colorado. They bring along their toxic oil and gas and fume them in the state. Some of the main reasons why Denver’s air quality is compromised is because of pollutants from motor vehicles and the oil industry. The Denver area is ranked in the top ten of the most polluted cities for ozone pollution. Denver actually went from being in 8th place to now being in 7th place. This is not a positive change! The air quality has taken a turn for the worse over the last few years. Specifically in Colorado, there has been an increase in the number of wildfires. The fires caused a lot of smoke in the air which made it difficult for people to breathe. The heat, from the fires, will get trapped in the atmosphere and disrupt the weather and air flow patterns, leading to an increase in allergens and pollutants in the air. The smoke from the fires can cause coughing, phlegm, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and decreases in lung function regardless of previous health status.

Coming Back to a Full Circle

It turns out that that post had some truth in it after all. Repeatedly Denver has been in the top of many lists of the most polluted cities in the world. However, there have been many initiatives planned to combat the pollution. One of the most recent initiatives highlights changes in transportation. Governor Jared Polis has highlighted how transportation is one of the largest sources of air pollution in Colorado. The most recent proposals propose that cities improve methods of active transportation which would improve transit facilities, streets and sidewalks. Making these improvements should create a domino effect where the condition of transportation will improve, therefore decreasing the pollution emitted from transportation. There would be less and less pollution emitting from various methods of transportation. Reducing the amount of car trips taken reduces the amount of ozone pollution. This approach fixes one issue in regard to pollution, one step closer to cleaner air!


Thanks for reading the third article in our Environmental Health series! We hope you learned about how pollution can impact that health of many, especially in Denver, Colorado.

If you liked reading this article, please check out the second article in this series, on The Lethal Town of Libby, Montana. This article is extremely interesting and is about how certain chemicals have led to devastating health effects on the entire town.

Until next time,

Salina and the Writing Committee :)


Colorado developing new pollution reduction planning standards to address climate change and Air Quality. Colorado Department of Transportation. (2021, December 31). Retrieved September 28, 2022, from

DENVER, C. O. | A. 20. (n.d.). New report: Colorado Air Still failing. American Lung Association. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from

DENVER, C. O. | A. 21. (n.d.). New report: Denver, Fort Collins named among the most polluted cities. American Lung Association. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from,director%20for%20the%20Lung%20Association

Fleming, S. (2022, April 29). Five reasons Colorado's air quality is so bad. Conservation Colorado. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from,worsening%20Denver%20metro%20car%20traffic

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