Air quality in Michigan

Air quality index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Michigan

Last update at (local time)


Real-time Michigan
Most polluted city ranking

#cityUS AQI
1 Sterling Heights


2 Adrian


3 Bloomfield Hills


4 Birmingham


5 Clinton Township


6 Dearborn Heights


7 Oxford


8 Walled Lake


9 Wolverine Lake


10 Lexington


(local time)



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Real-time Michigan
Cleanest city ranking

#cityUS AQI
1 Clarkston


2 Flint


3 Harbor Springs


4 Kalamazoo


5 Hudsonville


6 Zeeland


7 Fraser


8 Grand Haven


9 Leland


10 Ludington


(local time)


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Is Michigan a state with bad air pollution?

Michigan is a state in the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest regions of the United States.

The United States Census Bureau estimated the population of Michigan to be almost 10 million on 1st July 2019.

Michigan has the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision in the world, as it is bordered by four of the five Great Lakes, It also has 64,980 inland lakes of varying sizes.

Although Michigan developed a diverse economy, it is widely known as the centre of the US automotive industry, which developed as a major economic force in the early 20th century. It is home to the country's three major automobile companies (whose headquarters are all in Metro Detroit). The famous music recording label that is Tamla Motown was founded in Detroit by Berry Gordy Jnr. Motown being a portmanteau of “Motor Town”. Motown has now also become a nickname for the city of Detroit.

At the beginning of 2021, Detroit was experiencing a period of “Good” quality air with a US AQI figure of 29. The concentrations of PM2.5 was 7.1 µg/m³ and 41.4 µg/m³ for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Is there a strategy that can improve air quality in Michigan?

As most pollution comes from vehicle emissions and industrial discharges, the place to start to reduce pollution would be to reduce the amount of traffic on the roads, by whatever means that takes. Electric vehicles or other forms of sustainable fuel must be encouraged. Many countries announce that they will cease the sales of gasoline-powered cars by 2035 or 2040.

Public transport could be improved in order to encourage more people to use it, but this will only happen if it is convenient and reasonably priced.

With modern technology, there are many ways to reduce the emissions from manufacturing units through the treatment of the exhaust gases before they pass into the atmosphere. There is also the method of Carbon capture which entails the capture of carbon dioxide at its emission source and transporting it to an isolation site which is often an old mine or other underground installation, where it is “buried”.

Does the air quality in Michigan differ from district to district?

It has been found that air pollution from industrial sources close to schools jeopardises the health of the students through their emissions.

The researchers found that schools located in areas with the state’s highest industrial air pollution levels had the lowest attendance rates which serve as an indicator of poor health as well as the highest proportions of students who failed to meet state educational testing standards. After the results of the report were published, it was found that over 60 per cent of all public schools were in places of very high air pollution.

In April 2020, Grand Rapids posted the lowest year-round particle levels as well as a return to zero unhealthy days for short-term particle pollution, which comes from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires, and wood-burning devices.

What are the sources of air pollution in Michigan?

Residents of southwest Detroit have to deal with heavy pollution emitted from the many factories within the southwest and surrounding areas, automobile and truck traffic and other environmental stressors affecting the health of those in the community. There are over 150 sites in southwest Detroit that release chemicals and particles which result in air pollution. These sites emit dangerous chemicals and particles such as PM2.5, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and ozone.

Asthma hospitalisation rates in southwest Detroit and the surrounding areas are nearly triple the state average and cancer rates are also much higher than average.

Marathon Oil, located on Fort Street, produces up to 140,000 barrels of oil a day and it operates 24 hours a day, all year round. In 2014, the oil refinery emitted 430 tons of nitrous oxide, 83 tons of PM2.5 and 211 tons of sulphur dioxide.

Can the quality of air in Michigan be improved?

The air quality is slowly improving when compared to levels from 50 years ago when the Clean Air Act was first introduced. The levels of ozone are certainly not as high as they were 25 years ago, in fact, there were 22.5 fewer days of high ozone levels now than there were then.

Where is the worst air quality in Michigan?

A map from the University of Michigan shows that in the poorest districts, air pollution is higher. The average life expectancy of someone who lives in Detroit and someone who lives in the suburbs differs by 10 to 15 years.

District 48217, currently the most polluted ZIP code in the state of Michigan has such poor air pollution that makes it look like the sky is on fire.

Back in the 1960s, there was a large oil refinery which at the time had a few storage tanks.

Today, the Marathon Oil Company has more than 100 hectares of tanks and it pollutes so much that, since 2013, it has received 15 notifications from the Michigan Department of Energy and Environment for exceeding state and national emission limits. Marathon denies breaking the law and argues that in the last 20 years it has reduced emissions by 75 per cent and that it only represents 3 per cent of emissions from the area.

Marathon Petroleum Company has been fined by the Michigan Department of Environmental, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). The oil giant failed to demonstrate compliance with its renewable operating permit, as well as federal air quality rules and regulations, according to EGLE. The violations occurred between September 2017 and June 2019. The amount of fines totals over half a million dollars.

An order was issued which required the company to install an air filtration system at the Mark Twain school and to design a website to provide the public with real-time data which would show them the levels of air pollution at any time of day or night. The website was supposed to provide data on carbon monoxide, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, total reduced sulphur, and volatile organic compounds.

They are also required to pay a fine for an emissions malfunction that resulted in the release of hydrogen sulphide gas and mercaptan vapour which created a nauseous smell that caused great distress to the local residents who were affected by it. They complained of vomiting, laboured breathing and irritated eyes and throats.

Four of Michigan's top emitters of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrous oxide (NOx) are located within a 5-mile radius of District 48217. These substances can cause respiratory problems and acid rain, respectively.

How is the air pollution level in Michigan measured?

There are currently fixed-position ground monitoring stations, but because of their position, the figures they portray are not always thought to be accurate. One such monitor is just south of the infamous zip coded area of 48217. This means it is not close to what is thought to be the main contributor to air pollution locally.

Instead, it lies upwind to another area which is the source of its own pollution. Yet this monitor is showing the pollution as belonging to 48217. One solution to this is to operate a mobile station for several months in order to obtain a clearer picture as to the source of the toxic air.

What are the consequences of breathing in polluted air in Michigan?

If you live near a factory that emits cancer-causing chemicals and you breathe in polluted air, your risk of cancer may increase. Breathing toxic pollutants from the air may also increase your risk for non-cancerous effects such as emphysema or reproductive disorders.

Exposure to sulphur dioxide even for time periods as short as five minutes can have a significant impact on human health, including causing aggravation of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Sulphur dioxide exposure can also aggravate existing heart disease, leading to increased hospitalisations and premature deaths.

Asthmatics, children and the elderly are especially at risk from such pollution.

Many residents experience some type of symptoms related to air pollution, such as watery eyes, coughing or wheezing. Even for healthy people, polluted air can cause irritation or breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities. Your actual risk depends on your current health, the type and concentration of the pollutant, and the length of time you have been exposed to the polluted air.

People who are most likely to suffer serious health problems from air pollution are:

  • People with pre-existing heart or lung problems
  • People with breathing complications such as asthma or emphysema
  • Pregnant women
  • People working outdoors
  • Children under the age of 14, whose lungs are still developing
  • Elderly residents whose immune systems are weaker
  • Athletes exercising energetically outdoors

Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause immediate health problems:

  • Aggravate cardiovascular and respiratory diseases
  • Putting more stress on the heart and lungs which must work harder to supply the desired amount of oxygen to the body

Prolonged exposure to polluted air can have permanent health effects:

  • Accelerated ageing of the lungs and loss of lung capacity
  • Decreased lung function
  • Development of diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and possibly cancer
  • Shortening of life

Michigan air quality data attribution


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