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Something Smells Fishy: Is the Air Clean or Dirty?

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Stop holding your breath, and savor what is officially the cleanest air in America.

Richmond's bona-fide top nod comes courtesy of CNNMoney.com, which ranks Virginia's capital tops for air quality in its annual ranking of the 100 best places in America to live. The ranking was based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index and Air Pollution Index.

It is quite surprising,” says David M. DeBiasi, director of advocacy and public education at the American Lung Association. “It is inconsistent with our findings.” The national association recently gave Richmond an F in its State of the Air 2009 rankings, also based on the federal air-quality indexes.

Perhaps it's the American Lung Association's findings that are inconsistent, suggests Nill Hayden, public affairs and media relations director at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

“We don't agree with the F ranking,” Hayden says. “Overall air quality [in Richmond] is good.”

So where's the discrepancy?

Hayden concedes that Richmond has had years in which the air pollution was poor, but says that controls on power plants and improving weather patterns have led to better years for Richmond air.

CNNMoney offers further evidence that weather patterns can make just about anywhere look sunny-side up: The towns of Mechanicsville and Glen Allen rank Nos. 84 and 94 respectively in the overall ranking of top 100 places to live.

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