Capital Region Air Quality Shows Signs of Improvement in American Lung Association's State of the Air Report

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ALBANY, NY (04/28/2010)(readMedia)-- The American Lung Association's State of the Air 2010 report finds that the Capital Region's air is getting cleaner but is still in need of improvement. According to the report, over 12 million New Yorkers – more than 62 percent of the state's residents -- live in counties where unhealthy air threatens their lives and health. This year, 19 of the 33 counties in New York state with air quality monitors received failing grades. Nevertheless, the report also shows that efforts underway to clean up air pollution in the state are making a difference.

"While many portions of this year's report are encouraging, far too many Capital Region residents are breathing air that puts their health at risk," said Scott T. Santarella, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York. "The good news for the Capital Region is that every county experienced fewer unhealthy days which means our efforts to reduce emissions from sources including power plants and diesel engines are making a difference. Conversely, the bad news in this report is that our own state Capitol is in a region with failing air quality. This report should be a wake-up call for the Governor and our state legislators that the time to act is now."

The State of the Air report, found at, provides an annual national air quality "report card," based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's color-coded Air Quality Index. Using the most recent quality-assured data, the report assigns A-F grades to counties. The American Lung Association identified the number of days that each county with at least one air quality monitor experienced air quality designated as orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups), red (unhealthy), or purple (very unhealthy), to determine the grades.

"Air pollution affects everyone but it is even more of a threat to people with lung disease," said Dr. Irwin Berlin, Chief of the Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine Division at Elmhurst Hospital Center. "Ozone irritates the lungs when it is breathed in, and, particle pollution can be deadly. For my patients to have healthier lungs, we need to have cleaner air."

Significant findings from the report for the Capital Region include:

  • Albany County received an F for ozone pollution with 10 orange ozone days, one fewer than last year. The county received a C for short-term particle pollution, up from a D. Albany could not be graded for annual particle pollution because of inconclusive results.
  • Rensselaer County received an F for ozone. In 2009, Rensselaer was the only county in the Capital Region to have a red day for ozone pollution. This year the county had no red days and reduced its number of orange ozone days from 14 to 10.
  • Schenectady County, the only county in the Capital region to have a passing grade for ozone, again received a C. The county had four orange ozone days, down from six last year.
  • Saratoga County received an F for ozone with 20 orange days, one fewer than last year. The county had the most orange ozone days of any Capital Region county.

Ozone, or smog-is the most widespread air pollutant. It is a gas formed most often when sunlight reacts with vapors emitted when motor vehicles, factories, power plants and other sources burn fuel. Breathing in ozone irritates the respiratory tract and causes health problems like asthma attacks, coughing, wheezing, chest pain and even premature death.

Particle pollution, called fine particulate matter or PM 2.5, is a deadly cocktail of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols that can spike dangerously for hours to weeks on end. The body's natural defenses, coughing and sneezing, fail to keep these microscopic particles from burrowing deep within the lungs, triggering serious problems such as asthma and heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and even early death.

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