"Last year, Augusta was 35th, and it ranked 21st this year," said June Deen, public affairs vice president for the association's Georgia and South Carolina affiliates.
Fine particulate, which causes or contributes to a host of respiratory ailments, is caused by combustion and other processes.
"It's often called a 'mixture of mixtures' and can contain ash, soot, sulfates and nitrates from aerosol and other things," she said.
Because of its health effects, fine particle pollution is measured by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its Georgia counterpart, the Environmental Protection Division. The association uses those measurements to calculate America's most polluted cities.
"It is perhaps the most dangerous type of air pollution because the particles are so tiny -- a seventh as wide as a human hair -- and can go deep into the lungs and move through the bloodstream, just like oxygen, which means it can travel to other parts of the body."
Macon, Columbus, Atlanta and Rome also made the list this year, she said. In addition to soot, EPA's air quality rules regulate ozone, or "smog," which can cause cities to flunk compliance with the U.S. Clean Air Act.
Augusta, which is heavily industrialized, was considered for listing as noncompliant with the Clean Air Act, but improving air quality in 2005 and 2006 helped the city escape the designation for now.
Augusta-Richmond County already has created an "early action compact," in which steps to reduce air pollution are being taken to prevent the city from failing standards.
For local and state-by-state details included in the American Lung Association State of the Air 2008 report and to learn how you can protect yourself and your family from air pollution, go to www.lungusa.org.
The eight metropolitan areas considered to be the nation's most polluted by every measure were Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, Visalia-Porterfield and Hanford-Corcoran, all in California; Washington-Baltimore; St. Louis; and Birmingham, Ala.
The cleanest cities were Fargo, N.D., and Salinas, Calif.
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2. Los Angeles
3. Fresno, Calif.
4. Bakersfield, Calif.
5. Birmingham, Ala.
1. Cheyenne, Wyo.
2. Santa Fe, N.M.
4. Great Falls, Mont.
5. Farmington, Colo.
Today marks the start of smog season in metro Atlanta.
The American Lung Association ranks the region the 12th smoggiest metro area in the nation. That's up from 25th last year.
Most of metro Atlanta's smog-forming pollution comes from vehicles.
Clean Air Campaign spokesman Brian Carr says many people are unaware that their daily driving is bad for the environment.
-- Associated Press